NIU, BSU pit losing streaks in season finale

By Jim Wozniak

Something is going to give Saturday.

The NIU men’s basketball team takes on Ball State at 2:30 p.m. in University Gym in the third and last game in the Huskies’ week-long journey on the road. The game marks the season finale for both teams. It also gives a chance for one of the teams to break one of those ugly losing streaks.

NIU trugs into Muncie, Ind., with its 0-10 road record. The Cardinals have a losing streak of their own—dropping their last nine games. In that time, Ball State has slid into last place in the Mid-American Conference with a 4-12 league record and an 8-18 overall record. The Cardinals are 5-7 at home. The Huskies are 9-18 overall.

“I know they haven’t been winning a lot lately,” said NIU Coach Jim Rosborough. “I don’t think it makes a difference. I think it’s important that we finish up on a positive note.”

“Maybe it hurts us because they’re going to come in with a vengeance,” said NIU forward Eric Harrington. “Just like they’re looking for a win, we’re looking for a win.”

Ball State Coach Al Brown said the competition is the main reason for the absence of victories.

“We’ve been playing teams that are better than us,” he said. “When you play teams that are better than you, you can only play as well as you’re capable.”

NIU shot down the Cardinals, who will not be able to defend their MAC tournament championship of a year ago, 94-74 in their other contest Dec. 28 without leading scorer Rodney Davis. NIU forward Jim Edmondson, who since has become ineligible, led all scorers with a career-high 22 points. Ball State forward Charles Smith topped his squad with 20 points.

“I learned that Northern is a better team than we are,” Brown said of what he learned from the first meeting. “They beat us by 20 points and outrebounded us.”

NIU annihilated Ball State on the boards, holding a 52-27 advantage. Most of that advantage came on the defensive end, where NIU ripped down 37 as opposed to Ball State’s 15. Four NIU players had more rebounds than the top Cardinal. Huskie center John Culbertson led the way with 14, 12 defensively.

“It’s hard to get a picture from just one game,” said Brown of how he views NIU. “They looked pretty good.”

“We do have the edge in muscle and strength,” said Harrington. “I don’t think they have any big guys to stop our forwards.”

Ball State’s attack will be directed by Smith and junior guard Derrick Wesley. Smith is scoring 20.7 points per game and is pulling down a team-leading 7.4 rebounds per game. Wesley is the leading scorer with 20.9 ppg and 4.8 rbpg. Everyone else in the starting lineup averages less than eight points.

“I want to do a good job, and we’re going to put our two best defenders on them—probably Rodney (Davis) and Mike (Grabner) and maybe John (Culbertson),” Rosborough said. “John had a big-time game last night.”

Culbertson topped the Huskies Wednesday night with 18 points in a 91-76 loss to New Orleans.

Because spring break starts tommorow at Ball State, the crowd might be less vocal with less students present.