Losing streak ends at 7 as men down Davidson

By Chris Sigley

When NIU basketball coach Jim Rosborough left Saturday’s pre-game meal in Davidson, N.C., he set his hotel room key on the table and suggested the squad have a team meeting without him and to come get him when they were through.

“Everybody gave their points of view about how we needed to be and how we needed to pull together to win,” said NIU co-captain Donald Whiteside about the meeting.

“We knew we were a better team than we’ve showed and that we really needed a win to bring us back together. We kept communicating a lot during the game and kept the intensity flowing.”

Whether it was the change of road-game routine or the change of weather, which was compressed into a “warm,” stuffy Johnston Gymnasium at Davidson College, the Huskies pulled away from a halftime tie with the Wildcats to win 79-74.

Outrebounding DC 43-29, NIU’s victory ended its seven-game losing streak and upped its record to 5-11 in front of the crowd of 1,400. Co-captain Donnell Thomas racked up 21 points and snagged 12 rebounds, including six offensive boards, to pace the Huskies. Whiteside and Antwon Harmon (10 rebounds) chipped in 16 points apiece for NIU.

Rosborough said he could sense a change in his team.

“There was a lot more caring on the court,” Rosborough said. “(The losing streak) did a lot of wearing and tearing on everybody, but when people care, good things happen.”

The Huskies shed its largest first-half deficit of 8 points with the help of Thomas’ 12 points in the first 20 minutes. Freshman Bruce Elder scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half to lift the Wildcats to a 33-31 lead, but a pair of buckets by Thomas and Whiteside brought NIU even at 35-35 after the first half.

Highlighted by back-to-back slam dunks from each team, the opening minutes of the second half found both teams struggling to expand the tie to more than a two-point lead.

The scoring began to click for NIU, as it raced to a 60-48 lead with with less than 12 minutes to play. Just as the Wildcats started to make a comeback, a key rebound tip-in by Andrew Wells (9 points), which Rosborough said might have been “the biggest rebound we’ve had in almost three years here,” gave the Huskies a 68-62 edge.

“Andrew did a heckuva job,” Rosborough said of the 6-8 forward, who was replaced by Brent Varner in the starting lineup for being late to a practice. “He’s one of our young men who was hurt and troubled by this losing thing. He had some great tips.”

The Huskies held a comfortable 11-point lead down to the final 30 seconds, and there was no comeback in store for the Wildcats.