Huskies survive flaming comeback

By John Dietz

A great defensive scheme engineered by head coach Brian Hammel made UIC’s scoring duo of Kenny Williams and Sherell Ford disappear last night during NIU’s 66-64 victory at the UIC Pavilion.

David Mitchell hit the key bucket of the game with under two minutes remaining and the score tied at 62. His driving lay-up fell through, he was fouled on the play and converted the free throw.

The Flames had an opportunity to win the game after a Steve Oldendorf turnover with :26 remaining and NIU leading 65-64. Ford’s pull-up jumper was off the mark and Mitchell grabbed the rebound.

Mitchell made good on one free throw and a last second UIC (9-8, 4-2) pass went awry, sending NIU (8-7, 4-2) home victorious.

During the entire game the Huskies’ Randy Tucker hounded Williams and rarely allowed the Flames’ leading scorer an open shot. If Tucker got beat off the dribble, another defender would step out to deny a shot attempt.

Williams was six-of-17 shooting and ended up with 18 points. Ford shot a woeful three-for-15 from the field and scored seven points. The two shot a combined 28 percent on the night.

The defense kept NIU tied or ahead during much of the first half before Hammel’s squad scored the final eight points and lead 32-24.

After the half was over UIC’s head coach Bob Hallberg voiced his concerns about his team’s intensity through the first twenty minutes.

“We’re just not playing with any emotion whatsoever,” Hallberg said. “They’re flatter than a pancake.”

UIC stayed flat until the Huskies built a 52-37 lead. Then Hallberg’s squad went on a tear that nearly sent NIU back to DeKalb with a heartbreaking loss.

The Flame’s unbelievable defensive pressure forced Huskie turnover after turnover. When the dust cleared from UIC’s 19-2 scoring blitz, NIU trailed 60-58.

Hammel used two timeouts during the chaos and his team finally responded by breaking down the defense as they had done in the first half.

Aside from Tucker’s defensive dominance, Mitchell may have been the key to the win. Coming off the bench he scored 17 points and knocked in nine-of-11 from the free throw line.