Cincy tops Huskies; loss streak hits nine

By Jeff Kirik

The NIU men’s basketball team seems to be gaining momentum—they’re just going in the wrong direction.

The Huskies, now 4-15, dropped their ninth game in a row with an 81-60 loss to the Bearcats of Cincinnati Monday night. The nine-game skid is the second longest in Huskie history. NIU lost 11 consecutive contests in 1975-76 under the direction of Emory Luck.

Huskie coach Jim Rosborough went to his “kiddy corps” for the second game in a row. Freshmen Donnell Thomas, Brian Banks and Jo Jo Jackson started along with seniors Rodney Davis and Mike Grabner.

Senior center John Culbertson started the game on the pines, but played much of the first half when Banks went to the sidelines with his third foul midway through the first half. Culbertson finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. The recently hot Randy Norman rode the bench the entire game for the second straight contest.

NIU came out gunning early, grabbing a 14-8 lead after hitting seven of its first 11 shots. Banks contributed six points to the run. However, thanks to a Huskie cold spell and Bearcat rebounding, Cincinnati slowly took control.

“We were playing good basketball,” NIU assistant Bill Harris said after the game. “We were pretty much running our offense the way we wanted to against this particular ballclub because they are a very much upbeat, transition-type team.”

Led by freshman forward Levertis Robinson, Cincinnati took a 40-26 lead into halftime. Robinson came off the bench to score all 13 of his points in the first half.

Again in the second half, it was NIU which came out hot. The Huskies scored eight of the first nine points in the period to pull to within seven at 41-34. Once again, though, Cincinnati worked the lead into double figures.

UC’s junior center Cedric Glover took over Robinson’s role in the second half. The 6-foot-8 Glover scored 14 of his game-high 22 points in the second stanza and led his team with nine rebounds.

With the help of Glover’s inside power game, Cincinnati expanded the lead to 53-37. Donnell Thomas (13 points, 11 rebounds) was the key player in an NIU run which followed. Thomas scored five points and grabbed some clutch rebounds to help NIU pull to within eight at 59-51. That was closest the Huskies could draw, as the Bearcats hit their free throws down the stretch to pull away.

For the second consecutive game, NIU was outshot from the line. Saturday against Central Connecticut State, the Huskies shot 6-of-9 from the line while the Blue Devils poured in 24 of their 29 attempts. Last night, NIU made only seven of its 16 attmepts for a 44 percent clip. The Bearcats visited the line 35 times and made 28 of the attempts.

“As far as the free throws are concerned, we try different things at practice,” Harris said. “Sometimes you have those years where you just can’t drop the free throws.”

The Bearcats also won the field goal shooting and rebounding categories. Both teams made 26 field goals, except UC took 53 shots compared to NIU’s 70. The Bearcats shot 49 percent while the Huskies managed a subpar 37 percent. On the boards, NIU was outrebounded (40-37) for only the second time this season.

The two veteran guards in the game continued their shooting slumps. UC’s Roger McClendon hit his average of 14 points, but was not much of factor in the outcome. Meanwhile, Rodney Davis, NIU’s leading scorer, tallied 14 points on just 7-of-20 shooting. Last year, McClendon pumped in 30 and Davis added 23 in the Bearcats’ 72-69 win.

Harris said the Huskie coaching staff is still optimistic even with the streak.

“I know with the losing streak, you can be very negative about things,” he said, “but we’re not going to be that way, because we see what’s going to be down the line for us.”