Huskies finally find the brakes

By Jeff Kirik

It’s over. Finally.

The NIU men’s basketball team snapped a month-long, 10-game losing skid Saturday by outrunning the Blue Devils of Central Connecticut State 94-80 in front of 1,134 at Chick Evans Field House. NIU upped its record to 5-16 while CCSU, which had won four of its last five games, fell to 8-15.

In the first half, NIU hardly resembled the team which was within one game of tying the modern-day school record for consecutive losses (11 in 1975-76). Sparked by the early three-point shooting of guards Brett Andricks and Rodney Davis, the Huskies rushed out to a 49-30 halftime lead.

The guard tandem set a sprinter’s pace in the first five inutes mas they connected on five straight buckets from long range (two by Andricks, three by Davis) against a packed-in CCSU 2-3 zone to pull NIU out to a 17-13 lead.

“What they were really doing was clogging up the inside,” Davis said in reference to the Blue Devils’ zone defense. “That’s when we have to come out and shoot the jumpers. They were there, and Brett and myself hit a few three pointers and made them come out of it—which was what we were trying to do.”

When Jo Jo Jackson hit the Huskies’ sixth three pointer to give NIU a 30-19 lead with 11:00 left in the half, Blue Devil coach C.J. Jones knew it was time for a defensive adjustment.

Jones called a timeout and switched to a man-to-man zone. However, that change allowed Jim Rosborough’s Huskies to exploit a number of inside mismatches the rest of the night.

“We knew that they could shoot the three pointers,” Jones said. “We, in a sense, up at our place (a 93-86 CCSU win Jan. 30), gave them the outside shots, hoping that they wouldn’t hit as many. Here, I thought they did a better job of running their offense. They had the threes but they also pounded the ball inside.”

NIU finished the first half hitting 54 percent of its shots, including a sizzling 87 percent on 7-of-8 shooting from three-pont land.

The Huskies’ shooting turned to an ice-cold 36 percent in the second half, but aggressive play by the NIU big men kept the ball alive on the offensive boards, as they connected on numerous second shots. The Huskies finished the second half with 30 rebounds—including 17 on the offensive end—as the Blue Devils never came closer than nine points after the half.

Andricks was the obvious standout in the game. The 6-foot-3 sophomore scored only four of his season-high 15 points in the second half, but he was instrumental in getting the ball to the Huskie insiders in the second half. In addition to his 15 points, Andricks finished the game with 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 blocked shot. He also failed to turn the ball over in more than 32 minutes of playing time.

Davis led the Huskies with 27 points as forward Donnell Thomas and Jackson also scored in double figures with 15 and 11 points, respectively.

Blue Devil center Tyrone Canino topped CCSU with 23 points and 11 rebounds while forward Brian Devlin, who killed NIU with 25 points in the first meeting, added 20 points.

“Everybody forgot what it was to win,” said Jackson about the snapped losing streak. “We had a long losing streak, the longest one I’ve ever had in my life. It was rough.”