‘Mo’s’ squad looks to end road hex

By Wes Swietek

Coach Jim Molinari and his Huskies recently had one streak broken and are hoping to break another one tonight.

The streak the Huskies hope to break is their six-game road losing streak tonight against Valparaiso at 7:30. The streak NIU didn’t want to end was their 11-game winning streak at Chick Evans Field House. The streak ended after last week’s 63-62 loss to Northern Iowa.

The Crusaders (3-9) return two starters from last season’s 10-19 squad that finished fifth in the AMCU Conference. Six-foot-one senior guard Mike Jones and six-foot-seven forward John Becher anchor Valparaiso’s attack, which relies heavily on three-point shooting. The Crusaders launched 665 tries last season, 237 more than any other AMCU team.

Despite their record, Molinari feels that his squad will have its hands full trying to end its road losing streak against Valparaiso.

“They’re a really scrappy team,” said Molinari. “They are a good three-point shooting team and it should be a tough game.”

In addition to trying to defend against the Crusaders’ onslaught of three-point shooting, Molinari is focusing his attention on ending the Huskies’ road losing streak.

“We haven’t won on the road, so we have to keep reaching for a way to win,” said the first-year coach. “You have to realize that when you go on the road, it’s you against the whole world. You have to have a chip on your shoulder, be extra alert, be 10 points better than the opponent. You can’t go on the road hoping to win. Good teams expect to win.”

Valparaiso Coach Homer Drew comes into the contest with 282 career victories and his squad holds a 7-2 all-time series lead against the Huskies. NIU, however, won the last outing between the two teams 81-69 during the 1987 season.

The Huskies will be bolstered for the game by the return of six-foot-eight forward Randy Fens. Fens is returning to the team after missing the last four NIU matches. Fens missed two games when the freshman forward left the team for “personal reasons,” and two games after the subsequent suspension.

Huskie forward Donnell “D-Train” Thomas will hope to get back on track after being held to eight points against Missouri-Kansas City in last week’s 69-51 loss. The eight points is Thomas’ lowest output of the season and broke his string of 36 consecutive games scoring in double figures.

Thomas, a 6-4 junior out of Chicago’s Leo High School, scored a season high total of 25 points when the Huskies faced Idaho State and Toledo in consecutive home games. The “D-Train” is shooting an above average 51 percent from the field.

Most of Thomas’s points come from under the boards, but point-guard Donald Whiteside contributes to the NIU cause with long-range shooting.

Whiteside, a 5-10 junior who ranked No. 2 among major independents last season in 3-point shooting, is 26-of-57 this season—a 46 percent average from beyond 19-feet-9.

Valparaiso answers the long-distance call with its own aerial specialist—Indiana local Jones. The Valparaiso native finished the 1988-89 season 19th nationally in 3-point percentage (.492). In the past, Jones has won many games with key shots at the buzzer.

Prior to the matchup with the Huskies, the Crusaders have played the likes of Air Force, Ball State, Xavier and Notre Dame. A highlight Valparaiso likes to remember is Dec. 17, 1988, when the Crusaders upset the Fighting Irish 71-68 under then first-year head coach Drew. At the time, Notre Dame was ranked 19th in the country.