Defense, 3-point shooting key rout of Royals

By Mike Morris

On the surface, Saturday night’s 120-75 drubbing of Bethel College at Chick Evans Field House would appear to have been a Huskie offensive clinic. And it was.

When a team shoots 56 percent from the field, hits 73 percent of its 3-point attempts and scores 120 points in 40 minutes, one would assume that offense was the key to victory.

But to the 692 in attendance, it was apparent from the start that the Huskies’ relentless defensive pressure dictated the flow of the game.

“It’s the quickness,” said Bethel head coach George Palke. “Particularly the hand quickness. They bothered us when we shot. Obviously we had a lot of turnovers that we don’t normally have. I haven’t seen the stats, but I would guess we shot in the middle-30-percent (range). And we’re normally a 50-percent shooting team.

The Royals shot just .385 from the field Saturday night while turning the ball over 33 times, a far cry from their 115-point, 54-percent showing in a preseason win over Sweden.

“Normally, we fast break well and do well against the press,” Balke said. “(NIU’s) press hurt us and slowed down our fast break. I think it’s the difference in quickness.”

NIU head coach Jim Rosborough agreed with Palke and added he was happy with the defensive pressure and intensity of his young ballclub.

“There are still some defensive things we need to work on,” Rosborough said. “But I thought people up in people’s faces was much better than you’ve seen it in my two years.

“I’d like to think it’s our best defensive team, because we’ve got more quickness and better athletes. But, I’ll know much more Monday and Wednesday as to where we really stand.”

Indeed, tonight’s game against Eastern Illinois at Chick Evans Field House will be a much better test for the Huskies. Sharp-shooting guard Jay Taylor and the Panthers beat NIU twice last season en route to a 17-11 record, and NIU isn’t taking this early-season matchup lightly.

“It’s going to be a flat out war Monday,” Rosborough said. “We walked in the locker room (after the Bethel game) and we put up ‘Eastern Illinois’ on the chalk board and that’s it. I really don’t care about anything else.”

Last season, the Huskies’ traveled to Charleston and faced the Panthers’ largest crowd of the season and Rosborough said he wants to return the favor by filling Chick Evans to the roof with students.

“All I can do is beg and plead,” Rosborough said, “but we need a full house on Monday night.”