NIU beats up on Bethel, 20-75, in home opener

By Chris Sigley

From Saturday’s opening tipoff, a scrappy NIU men’s basketball team fit coach Jim Rosborough’s description of a “young and restless” squad.

But the Huskies’ 120-75 demolishing of Division III Bethel College was pretty much a gimmee for NIU in its home season opener. The Huskies were originally slated to open at Indiana.

The real trial will stand tonight as the Huskies take on Eastern Illinois at 7:05 p.m. in Chick Evans Field House, in what Rosborough said will be “a flat-out war.”

Rated No. 2 in the preseason Association of Mid-Continent Universities poll, EIU will look to 6-foot-3 guard Jay Taylor for offense. Taylor was nominated as a preseason Street & Smith’s Honorable Mention All-American, and is also the No. 2 returning scorer in the AMCU.

“(Taylor) is one of the two or three best players we will play this year,” Rosborough said. “We’ve got to be very aware of him at all times, and we’re going to try and keep somebody fresh on him every three or four minutes.”

The Huskies should have plenty of qualified substitutes to help quiet Taylor if they can rely on their bench like they did against Bethel, when everyone saw playing minutes.

With NIU leading the Royals 82-48 and 11:30 left in the game, the subs not only widened the margin, they contributed three players who scored in double figures for the night.

Marcus Coty got there the fastest. The 6-foot guard made 3-pointers his specialty, as he dumped in 6-of-6 from the twilight zone to set a school record for 3-point shooting percentage in a game.

Coty, who finished with 22 points, hit a 3-point jump shot with 11 minutes left to spark a 12-point run for NIU, which boosted the Huskies to a 94-48 lead. Sophomore Jo Jo Jackson poured in two free throws and a nine-foot fallaway to break the century mark for the Huskies for the first time since Feb. 12, 1979, against Valparaiso (110 points).

Jackson hit the last of his 15 points on an 11-foot jumper to bring the score to 119-75 with :52 on the clock. Freshman Mike Hidden’s free throw bumped the score to its second-highest in NIU history. On Dec. 5, 1970, against Cal Poly-Pomona, the Huskies scored 123 points. Hidden finished with 10 points and 6 boards.

“We played everybody, and that may not happen again all year,” Rosborough said.

NIU gave itself some breathing room in the beginning when sophomore starters Andrew Wells, Donnell Thomas and Antwon Harmon raced the score up to 10-0, forcing the Royals to take a timeout.

The Huskies dived for loose balls, created steals with a dominating full-court press and celebrated a Wells two-hand dunk as they took a 64-33 lead into the lockerroom.

Thomas scored 17 of his 23 points in the first 20 minutes and finished the night with a game-high 11 rebounds. Andrew Wells and Stacy Arrington scored 12 points apiece.

Harmon and freshman Randy Fens each chipped in eight points. Freshman Brent Varner snatched four rebounds but did not score and fouled out in 14 minutes of action.