Huskies finish fourth in UTEP Tournament

By Jeff Kirik

The NIU men’s basketball team must be looking forward to its week off.

The Huskies finished fourth in the Texas-El Paso MetroMobile Tournament after losing to UTEP 67-55 Friday and falling to Wisconsin-Green Bay in third place game Saturday. Now the 1-3 Huskies have until Sunday to regroup for probably what will be the toughest opponent they will face this season—the Bradley Braves.

NIU found itself battling from behind in both of the tournament games this weekend. The Huskies showed flashes of brilliance, but the flashes usually were followed by a turnover or a run by the opposition.

The Miners of UTEP shut down the NIU inside game early Saturday as most of the inside shots the Huskies took came after they grabbed an offensive rebound. NIU won the rebounding battle 36-29.

The Huskies had enough trouble handling the Miners’ balanced attack (four players in double figures), but add too it 25 NIU turnovers and it’s easy to see why NIU could never get closer than seven points in the second half.

Mike Grabner led NIU with 16 points followed by Rodney Davis’ 15. UTEP saw Antonio Davis score 16 points, Wayne Campbell and Chris Blocker tally 13 each and Tim Hardaway add 12.

The third-place game was a much different affair for the Huskies. Led by the inside game of Donnell Thomas and the clutch shooting of Rodney Davis, the Huskies stayed close the entire game.

Phoenix forward Adrian Bolding keyed an early run which saw the Huskies fall behind 22-14 with 6:35 remaining in the first half. However, by halftime the Huskies had grabbed a 33-30 lead on the strength of three inside baskets by Thomas and three-point plays by Davis and Jo Jo Jackson.

In the second half, Bolding filled the spot of the Phoenix‘ leading-scorer Frank Nardi, who missed the game with a separated shoulder, by scoring 15 of his 21 points.

The Phoenix survived a number of NIU surges and with four minutes left in the game UW-GB grabbed a 65-59 lead on a three-point shot. NIU did not give up, though, as Davis scored the next six points, four on free throws, to pull the game even at 65-65.

However, with one minute to go NIU guard Donald Whiteside missed a driving shot and 22 seconds later Mike Grabner fouled UW-GB’s Pat Taphorn. Taphorn made his first charity shot, but Bolding grabbed the offensive rebound after Taphorn missed the second. Bernie Tompa then hit four free throws to seal the win.

Thomas’ 12 boards led NIU to a 40-32 rebounding advantage. Davis headed the NIU scoring column with 19 points, while Thomas added 15 and Jackson and Grabner contributed 11 each.