Low-scoring contest favors NIU

By Wes Swietek

Although cries of “break up the Huskies” are not ringing through college basketball land, NIU showed last night why the Huskies are a team on the rise. Behind Donnell “D-Train” Thomas’ 20 points, NIU won its third road game out of its last five attempts, 48-45, over Lamar.

The Huskies won despite shooting only 19 of 52 (.365 percent), but committed a season-low six turnovers. Lamar also had trouble finding its shooting touch, making only 18 of 50 attempts (.360 percent).

“The way we shot, there would never have been a winner at the Alamo,” said Huskie coach Jim Molinari.

The win pushed the Huskies’ record to 12-9, which marks the first time that NIU has been three games above .500 since 1985-86. Lamar dropped to 6-16 with the loss.

Both teams started slowly in front of the 1,757 spectators on hand in Beaumont, Texas. NIU held a 13-6 advantage midway through the opening half. Lamar built a five-point lead late in the half before Donald Whiteside hit a three-point jumper before intermission to pull the Huskies within two at 24-22. Whiteside had three three-pointers in the first half to help keep the Huskies within striking distance.

NIU scored six unanswered points to open the second half and slowly built a 42-37 lead. The Cardinals battled back to make the score 46-43 on a Calvin Rice basket with under a minute remaining in the contest. After Thomas missed the front end of a one-and-one, Rice put in a lay-up to pull the Cardinals within one, 46-45.

After a Lamar time-out, Thomas was fouled again. With 11 seconds remaining the “D-Train” sank both attempts to give NIU its final victory margin. Lamar’s Duane Prichett missed a desperation last-second shot.

Thomas had a team-high seven rebounds to go along with his game-high 20 points. Whiteside was the only other Huskie in double figures, tallying 11 points on the night. Only four Cardinals hit the scoring column, led by Brad Westbrook and David Jones with 12 each. Darryl Reed entered the contest leading the Cardinals in scoring with a 17.1 average but was held to 11 on the night.

“I thought our defense was outstanding,” said Molinari. “I really thought that everyone did a good job of fighting for the ball. When you don’t shoot well you need for your defense to carry you.”

Winning on the road was something foreign to the Huskies during the first half of the season, losing their first six outings away from the friendly confines of Chick Evans Field House. With last night’s win the Huskies improved their road record to 3-8.

“This is the final third of the season,” said Molinari. “We were 5-4 in the first third, 5-5 in the middle third and now we’re 2-0 in the final third. We want to make the final third our best.”