Huskies can’t stop Wildcat onslaught

By Jeff Kirik

The NIU Huskies found out firsthand why Kansas State is in second place in the Big Eight.

They also found out why the Wildcats’ Mitch Richmond is a strong All-America candidate.

The Wildcats shook off a pesky NIU squad midway through the first half and cruised to an 88-67 win in front of just under 10,000 in Manhattan, Kan. The Huskies fell to 6-19 while KSU broke a three-game loss skid to move to 16-7.

Richmond was the star of the night. The 6-foot-5 forward utilized his quickness in the paint and a nice touch on his jumpshot to collect 26 points, even though he did not play in much of the second half. He came into the contest averaging 24 points per game.

“He’s a very good basketball player. He’s very strong,” NIU assistant John Mackey said on WDEK radio’s postgame show. “He posts up and takes it to the hole and he can also shoot the outside shot.”

The Huskies stayed close in the first 10 minutes as Rodney Davis’ three-point jumper with 7:20 left in the opening half pulled NIU to within 18-15. However, a 9-0 Wildcat run closed the door on the Huskies for the night.

Richmond took command in the final two minutes of the stanza, scoring the last 7 points of the first half to lift the Wildcats to a 40-26 lead. He had 17 points at intermission.

“He is their leader,” Mackey said. “He did lead them in the first half. When it was a close game like that he decided to take charge.”

NIU struggled from the field the entire first half, hitting only 11 of its 30 shots in the period. Meanwhile, KSU overcame an early 8-6 rebounding deficit to outboard NIU 36-25 for the game.

When Richmond started the second-half scoring with a breakaway slam, it was just a sign of things to come. KSU dominated every phase of the game in the final half.

On a number of occasions, the Wildcats built a lead of 30-plus points. NIU narrowed the margin late in the game while the substitues got their playing time.

“When you play a good basketball team like that, who does a very nice job of playing together, it’s hard to get back into the game when you’re playing on their floor,” Mackey said of the Wildcats, who were ranked in the top-20 earlier in the season.

The Wildcats burnt the nets for a 59-percent clip from the field for the game. NIU recovered from its poor first-half performance to shoot a respectable 46 percent.

KSU also took the free-throw battle, hitting on 19-of-26 shots compared to NIU’s 8-of-12. NIU did not shoot a free throw until forward Donnell Thomas connected with about 14 minutes left.

Richmond was one of four Wildcats who hit in double figures, while for NIU only Mike Grabner and Randy Norman could hit the 10-point plateau with 14 and 13, respectively.