Men’s basketball still looking for first win

By Brian Belford

Despite its winless status, NIU’s men basketball will take the floor Saturday night to try for its first win of the season against the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.

“Our heads aren’t down,” said NIU senior forward Tim Toler. “Everyone still has that hungry mentality. Everyone is coming to practice competing. So it’s still a competitive attitude, and even though a win hasn’t come yet, we still have to fight because it’s going to come eventually.”

Nebraska-Omaha (2-5) is spearheaded by its guard, senior Mitch Albers, who averages close to 20 points per game. But the Mavericks can also rely on sophomore center John Karhoff, freshman guard C.J. Carter and junior forward Alex Welhouse to score points, as each averages double digits over the first seven games.

“I know that they can score,” Toler said. “Mitch Albers is a pretty good guard, and he’s going to be one of the guys we’re going to have to stop going into the game. But they have three or four guys who are averaging in double digits [as well].”

NIU (0-6) coach Mark Montgomery says the Huskies will have to shoot better if they want to keep up with the Mavericks.

“Nebraska-Omaha is a good shooting team, and our defense is going to have to keep their guys from penetrating so we can get out on their shooters,” Montgomery said. “They’re a good team, but it goes back to what we do. We have to take care of the ball and limit our turnovers. We have to rebound. We have to continue to share the ball, and someone is going to have to step up and make some shots.”

Shooting the ball has been a problem for the Huskies this year. The team as a whole shoots 35 percent from the field and 26 percent from three point range.

Montgomery said the Huskies need more confidence and can’t go through periods on the floor where they don’t show up to play.

“I think that we’re getting the shots; you just have to have that confidence that your going to knock it down,” Montgomery said. “Sometimes there is a lid on the basket, and we’ve been playing in segments unfortunately. It’s a forty minute game and we’ve been playing thirty minutes. You can’t have lulls. A one or two minute lull is different, but we’ve had a couple five or six minute lulls, and by then the game is out of reach.”

Toler said the large amount of freshmen on the team is still getting used to playing against college defenses, which is also a reason for the lack of scoring.

“We have eight freshman, and guys are getting into the rotation and are getting some pretty good minutes,” Toler said. “But it’s still a transition to the defensive pressure that guys put on you.”

While he hasn’t seen anyone hang his head yet, Toler said the elder players on the team will tell the younger players to buck up if they ever do see it happen.

“Losing can bring that stress mentality or that head down mentality,” Toler said. “And being a senior, I’ve kind of been through all of this before; the wins and the losses, and I talk to the freshman and let them know that we still have 24 games left to play. And if they do hang their head over these first six games, we will be there to encourage them everyday not to.”