NIU battles Panthers at UNI-Dome

By Wes Swietek

Coach Jim Molinari’s Huskies will not have an opportunity to savor their big victory over Nebraska for long. NIU’s next opponent is the undefeated Northern Iowa Panthers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Saturday at 3:35 p.m.

The 3-0 Panthers return four starters from last season’s 19-9 AMCU runner-up squad, including 6-foot-8 All-Conference center Jason Reese. Reese has been called a potential NBA draft pick. All-Conference forward Steve Phyfe, who stands 6-foot-9 joins Reese to give the Panthers a formidable front-court.

Northern Iowa, the pre-season favorites to win the AMCU, is also ranked 47th nationaly in this week’s Associated Press basketball poll.

“It looks like it’s Northern Iowa’s and Eldon Miller’s year,” said Molinari. “Jason Reese is an excellent player. He might not be as tall as some of the Nebraska people, but I know he’s more physical. Northern Iowa has a nice blend of size, strength, and athletic ability.”

The Panthers head into Saturday’s contest under the direction of veteran head coach Eldon Miller who has chalked up 449 victories in his 27 years of coaching. Miller’s record places him 13th on the winningest active Division I men’s coaches list.

Going into the contest, Huskie standouts Donnell Thomas and Donald Whiteside will be aiming to put their mark in the NIU record book. Thomas needs only five more points to move into the number 20 spot on NIU’s all-time scoring list. Whiteside needs five three-pointers to become NIU’s all-time leading three-point shooter.

Whiteside is also working on a streak of 17 straight free-throws without a miss. The 5-foot-10 guard, however, has a long way to go to match the school record of 32 straight held by Willie Hanson.

In last year’s meeting between the two squads at the UNI Dome, Northern Iowa emerged with a 94-71 victory and NI leads the all-time series 9-5. NIU’s return match with the Panthers on January 10 in Dekalb will be a homecoming of sorts for NI, which has five Illinois players on its roster.

After the NI game, while many NIU students prepare for Christmas break, Molinari’s Huskies will have to face off against Idaho State on December 16, and Toledo on December 19. Both contests are at Chick Evans Field House. NIU closes out 1989 with road games against Minnesota and Wisconsin-Green Bay.

The Huskies will begin the new decade with three consecutive home dates, against Western Illinois, Eastern Illinois and Northern Iowa on January 3, 6 and 10, respectively, before hitting the road to face Missouri in the final game before the Spring semester begins.

“We’ve had five games in 11 days and we’re 3-2,” said Molinari. “But we still have a long way to go.”