Vikings win in tale of two halves

By Wes Swietek

What’s the old saying about not counting your chickens before they’re hatched? For the answer, ask anyone who attended Saturday’s NIU men’s basketball game.

With a 35-20 lead at halftime, the Huskies were apparently headed for a relatively easy win against Cleveland State.

But ice-cold shooting and the relentless attack of the deeper Vikings earned the visitors a 71-55 Mid-Continent Conference win in front of 2,749 at Chick Evans Field House.

“Talk about two different halves, if you haven’t seen it yet in college basketball, you certainly saw it (tonight). The tale of the tape was, we didn’t shoot particularly well,” NIU head coach Brian Hammel said. Indeed, the Huskies shot a chilly 18 percent (5-of-28) in the second half.

The loss drops NIU to 7-12 overall, 4-5 in the Mid-Continent. Cleveland State moves to 9-10, 2-7.

The first half, however, belonged to the Huskies.

When Mike Hidden and David Mitchell nailed consecutive three-pointers, NIU had a comfortable 18-8 lead. A lead which they continued to build for the rest of the half. A Vaurice Patterson prayer from halfcourt at the buzzer was almost answered, but bounced out. Still, NIU led by 15, 35-20.

After shooting 47 percent in the first half, including 5-of-10 on three-pointers, and controlling the tempo, the second half belonged to the visitors.

NIU dressed nine players, eight saw action and five played more than half the game. Predictably, fatigue played a key role in Cleveland State’s comeback.

The Huskies were outscored 51-20 in the second half.

“They kept subbing, subbing, subbing which I thought was an excellent move by (Cleveland State head coach Mike) Boyd to have fatigue become a big factor in the game,” Hammel said. “They just wore us down on the boards. They got way too many second shots.”

The Vikings kept slicing the lead until Craig Caldwell’s three-pointer with 4:10 left gave Cleveland State a 53-51 lead. In the final four minutes of the game, the Huskies were outscored 18-2.

Anthony Reed led the victors with 22 points and eight rebounds.