Seniors double (OT) the fun

By Wes Swietek

Perhaps it was appropriate that NIU seniors Brian Molis and Mike Hidden played their last home game in what turned out to be a test of wills.

What characterizes the Huskie duo the most is their tenacious lunch-pail attitude toward basketball.

They and the Huskies needed that blue-collar attitude Saturday as they overcame foul trouble, fatigue and finally Texas Tech, 96-90, in double overtime at Chick Evans Field House.

The Huskies will apparently face Illinois-Chicago (14-12) this Sunday at 8:15 p.m. in the first round of the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament in Cleveland.

Going into the tournament, NIU is 11-16 with Saturday’s win. “It was a tremendous way for our seniors, Mike Hidden and Brian Molis, to go out,” said NIU head coach Brian Hammel.

“There were numerous times when we could have folded; we tried to fold a couple of times but somebody picked us up and wouldn’t allow us to fold,” Hammel said.

Appropriately, it was Molis, who ended with a career-high 33 points, and Hidden (18 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists) who led the way.

Molis scored NIU’s first 10 points en route to 19 points by halftime which found NIU and the Red Raiders (13-12) tied at 42. Texas Tech forward Will Flemons was keeping his team in the game with 21 first-half points.

The second-half lead seesawed, until, down by two, Hidden fed Molis for a lay-up that tied the game at 73 and sent it into overtime. Flemons fouled out with 4:16 left in regulation.

In the first OT, NIU built a five-point lead on Molis’ three-pointer, but Tech tied it as Damon Ashley hit a free throw with 1.6 seconds left. His second attempt fell short and the game went to double OT.

In the second OT, Hidden hit a three to put NIU up five but Molis fouled out seconds later. But with the lead and the ball, the Huskies took advantage of Tech fouls and Hidden and David Mitchell went to the free throw line ten-straight times, converting eight of them to give NIU the 96-90 win.

Five players fouled out, including NIU’s Marlin Simms, who had a game-high 13 rebounds, Randy Fens and Molis.

“If you open up the book, in chapter three, that’s how it’s supposed to work—your seniors take over and make the big plays, and Mike and Brian certainly did that,” Hammel said.

“We wanted to be the ones to hit the last second shot,” Hidden said. “You always want that fantasy ending.”

Next for NIU is the conference tournament with its automatic NCAA bid. “This is good experience going into the tournament,” Molis said. “Now we know we can win the close games.”

“If we play hard, play as a team and don’t make dumb errors,” Hidden said, “we’re going to the NCAA.”