Same start, different end

By Roger Moreano

What a difference a game and 20 minutes can make.

The NIU men’s basketball team licked its wounds from a tough loss on Saturday and came out aggressively Monday night to post an impressive 75-56 victory over the Akron Zips.

Only 48 hours had passed since NIU had suffered a shocking 71-55 loss at the hands of Cleveland State.

In what could have been termed “A Tale of Two Halves,” NIU had blown a 15-point halftime lead en route to being outscored by 31 points in the second half by Cleveland State.

On Monday, NIU raced to another big halftime lead only to see it dwindle to five with 15:35 to play in the contest.

However, unlike Saturday’s second half disappearance, NIU responded to Akron’s run with 10-straight points to put the game away.

At halftime, NIU head coach Brian Hammel did not feel he needed to remind his ballclub of Saturday’s game.

“We never want to influence our players with a negative thought,” said Hammel. “We talked about how to play with a lead and that they (Akron) would come out more aggressive in the second half.

“We told our guys that it’s time to get stronger and not weaker. You’ve got to fight fire with fire and pressure with pressure.”

The pressure did come, and NIU responded this time around. Senior forward Brian Molis led the way for NIU with 20 points, but gave the entire team credit for playing 40 strong minutes.

“We could’ve easily folded, but everyone concentrated and played the second half hard,” said Molis. “When (Akron) made a run at us, we withstood the run.

“We had to concentrate … we didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. This was a good win for us.”