Rebounding jumpstarts opening season win


There is nothing like opening the season at home with a good old fashioned blowout.

The NIU men’s basketball team stepped into the regular season and handed Aurora a 93-77 loss in front of 1,738 in the Huskie’s season opener at Chick Evans Fieldhouse Saturday night.

Granted AU (1-1) is probably not a team you’ll soon see on NBC taking on N.C. State, but after a 102-point effort in last Wednesday’s pre-season loss to the Marathon Oil AAU team, the Huskie (1-0) offense looks like it is finally starting to come around, at least on the offensive boards. The Huskies won this game on second chance points.

The total rebound margin was staggering. The Huskies pushed the Spartans out of the way in racking up 54 boards while allowing AU to pick up only 25.

Of those, only nine were offensive boards while the Huskies pounded the glass for 27 (two more then the Spartan’s overall total).

The Huskies started the game slow and worked up from there. After the lead changed three times within the first few minutes, NIU, led by Randy Tucker’s 15 first half points, took over midway through the first half and never looked back.

By the time the half ended, the scoreboard read 43-25. The game may as well have been over.

But the Spartans elected to come back for more and the Huskies extended their lead to as many as 26 before falling apart in the last two minutes as AU closed out the game on a 12-2 run.

After using two different sets of starters in the first two exhibition games, it was uncertain who would take the court to begin the game.

As expected, head coach Brian Hammel gave Tucker, Mike Lipnisky and Steve Oldendorf the nod.

Unexpected starters, however, included forwards Marlin Simms and Jamal Robinson, neither of whom played with the team last season.

So Robinson returned the favor and made Hammel look like a genius.

The 6-4 sophomore out of Proviso East, who has never even played in a regular season college game, let alone start one, came alive with 17 points and ten rebounds (eight offensive).

Tucker finished up with game high 23 points, mainly on the strength of five three pointers in his eight attempts.

Oldendorf, who racked up a mammoth 32 points against Marathon, was “held” to 14 while picking up nine boards.

Hubert Register was held out of the final exhibition game and didn’t start the AU game due to injury but came off the bench for 12 points on six-of-nine shooting and pulled down 10 rebounds in 21 minutes of play.

As a team, the Huskies shot .500 from the floor (42-84) while holding AU to .483 (29-60).

Hammel’s squad will take their show on the road for a 7:30 p.m. meeting with Kent State this Wednesday.