NIU drives by Marathon Oil in final preseason tune-up

By Carl Ackerman

NIU’s men’s basketball team completed its 2-0 exhibition season Tuesday with a 79-67 win over Marathon Oil in what Huskies head coach Jim Molinari described as an “extremely poor” performance by his team.

“With the level of competition we’re going to face this year if we play that way we won’t win much,” Molinari said. “Our program is based on attitude, effort and discipline, and I don’t think we showed much of that, especially in the first half. Some guys just didn’t come to play.”

In the first half, the Huskies made only eight out of 30 field goal attempts and were out-rebounded 29-14. The game was nearly six minutes old before NIU scored its third point.

However, NIU never fell behind by more than seven points and managed to gain a 27-26 lead at halftime.

“I think we broke down discipline-wise. We couldn’t make the shots and we got frustrated,” Molinari said.

Part of the reason for NIU’s comeback was the efforts of Donald Whiteside, who tallied 14 first-half points.

“I was most impressed with Whiteside,” Marathon Oil head coach Jeff Sergent said. “He didn’t take a whole lot of bad shots, and I thought he passed the ball well, too.”

Sergent felt his team’s biggest problem was a lack of concentration.

“It was a lack of (Marathon Oil) using their heads and playing dumb,” Sergent said. “They’ve been doing that a lot lately. They’re getting a little tired, but that’s not much of an excuse. Most of them are in excellent shape, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at them.”

Molinari said Marathon Oil is not a team like the ones NIU will be facing this year and is worried his team doesn’t realize how difficult the schedule will be.

“We’re not going to have to be just good, but we’re going to have to be something special. The teams in the Mid-Continent will not only be bigger (than Marathon Oil), but much better,” Molinari said.

Marathon Oil faced two Mid-Continent teams prior to NIU (Western Illinois and Wisconsin-Green Bay).

“I think (NIU) is a little better than Western. Green Bay is definitely a better team. They play extremely well together and will give Northern a lot of trouble defensively,” Sergent said.

Whiteside’s 22 points led the Huskie scoring. Donnell Thomas finished with 19 points, all of which came in the second half. Antwon Harmon added 14 points and Andrew Wells had 10.

“I believe in this team, and I think if we keep together and really work hard we can make some good things happen. When people come out to see our first game against Evansville, they will see a much different Northern team and a much different game,” Molinari said. The Huskies open the regular seaon Tuesday (7:30) when they visit the University of Maine at Bangor.