Cougars fall prey at Evans

By Joe Bush

The Northern Illinois Huskies men’s basketball team took a chair and a whip to another group of ferocious felines Saturday night, beating the Chicago State Cougars 63-55 behind ringmaster Donald Whiteside’s 16 points.

The Huskies improved their 1989-90 record against big cats to 5-3, having earlier tamed Bengals (Idaho State), Bobcats (Montana State), Golden Panthers (Florida International) and some downstate Panthers (Eastern Illinois).

NIU is still smarting from two rippings at the paws of the Northern Iowa Panthers (two losses) and a somber road loss to a toothless FIU, but continued the healing process with its 11th win in 12 tries at Chick Evans Field House.

The Cougars, now 5-21, started the game like a team 21-5. CSU’s three leading scorers, 6-7 forward James Parker, (17.2 points per game), guard Gerald Collins (14.5 ppg) and guard Rod Parker (11.1 ppg), scored six points in the Cougars’ 8-0 run to start the game. Parker’s two came from a scary alley-oop slam off of a half court assist.

“We got the first offensive rebound of the game, made the next three shots we took and all the bounces came to us on the defensive end,” explained Cougar Coach Tommy Suitts.

Suitts’ counterpart, Jim Molinari, had seen enough. He sent in four “subs,” Andrew Wells, Stacy Arrington, Mike Hidden and Antwon Harmon, and over the next nine and a half minutes the move looked like genius to the 2,377 fans who stayed out of area ditches.

Wells scored NIU’s first points on a putback. Whiteside hit the first of his four three-point shots. Harmon leaped for a putback. Hidden dropped in a twisting rebound-layup. While the Huskies worked the scoreboard, the Cougars went on sick leave and choked down a 7:54 dry spell.

After all that, though, when CSU’s Ernie Fullilove sank a three with a second left in the half, the Cougars led 32-29, thanks mainly to 6-2 senior Collins, who scored 14 of the Cougars’ last 24 points, four on threes.

Collins not only finished the half with 16 points, he was finished, period. Huskie senior Phil Lieb, honored before the game as the only departing Huskie senior, started the second half in one leg of Collins’ shorts and was succeeded by Hidden who climbed into the other.

As a result, Collins was 0-4 from the floor and 0-2 from the line in the latter half, and as a team, CSU shot 38 percent.

“What we told our young men then (halftime) that you just couldn’t leave him. No help situations, where you rotate off him to help someone else on penetration—we just didn’t leave him,” Molinari said.”

The Huskies (14-10) literally jumped into the last 20 minutes as Hidden’s three-pointer from the wing at 15:22 put the home team up 40-39, all comeback points on long shots or free throws. NIU never trailed after that as Whiteside opened up the biggest lead (54-43) at 5:18 with the second of his three treys on the night.

Arrington scored seven of his 14 points in the rally half and Wells put in eight of his 12. Harmon led all rebounders with 10, five from each end. NIU sealed the victory with eight for 11 from the line in the foul-happy last 1:11.

“It’s a credit to our guys. Normally if we’d have gotten behind by five and team’s sitting in zone, we’d could have been in deep yogurt, but it’s as well as we’ve attacked a zone all year,” Molinari said. “We hit some shots, especially Donald and Mike Hidden hit a big three and Stacy did a great job of distributing the ball. So I’m excited.”

In addition to shutting out Collins the 6-5 Hidden pulled down nine rebounds.

“Mike’s gotta be what you’d wanna call a lunchpail player. He’s just gotta roll up his sleeves and go to work, do all the little things. That’s outstanding for him to have those nine rebounds,” Molinari said.

Donnell Thomas, the D-Train, the Huskies’ leading scorer most nights, was sidetracked most of the night, scoring just four points in the first half and another four in the second, half of those eight on free throws. Thomas sat with three fouls at 15:51 of the second half, and played just 27 minutes, down from his 35 plus average.

“I got a little bit of a rest but I wasn’t really into the game and my mind wasn’t right. You know, I’m entitled to those nights too, I’m just glad the other guys were ready to play and we came out with the victory,” Thomas said.

Molinari announced that 6-9 sophomore Brent Varner had left the team to concentrate on studies and will seek playing time nearer his Warren, Mich. home.

NIU plays Eastern Illinois (more cats) tonight in Charleston with a 7:30 tip-off.