Did fatigue, or simply lack of depth, lead to foul trouble and spell the difference between two losses and two wins recently for the NIU men’s basketball team?
The Huskies have dropped three in a row with Saturday’s 65-61 loss against Eastern Illinois and Monday’s 78-73 loss at Wright State.
Against Eastern, the Huskies (10-16, 7-9) made a second-half comeback, but ended up with four players having three or more fouls—especially noticeable because the Huskies are down to a total of nine bodies on the roster.
Against Wright State, Brian Molis fouled out and four other players finished with three or more fouls.
The Raiders pounded the ball inside against the depleted Huskie ranks and wound up shooting 22 free throws in the second half.
“It’s no secret, people have been trying to do that against us all season,” NIU head coach Brian Hammel said after the Wright State game.
Senior co-captains Molis and Mike Hidden say fouls, and not fatigue, have been the culprit.
“We were a little tired (against Wright State), but it was more of the foul situation—your defensive intensity goes down because you don’t want to foul out,” said Hidden, who admits that picking up the slack for missing players has had its effect on Molis and himself.
“There’s more pressure on us because we’re the seniors.” For motivation, “I just keep thinking that these are the last games we’ll play,” Hidden said.
Molis agrees that fatigue hasn’t been the Huskies main nemesis. “I don’t think it was. Against Wright State, it was more the foul trouble,” Molis said. “Against Eastern, we just didn’t come out to play.”
Of the five Huskies on this year’s roster who saw action last year (Steve Oldendorf, Molis, Hidden, Randy Fens and Brian Mitchell), all five have already played more minutes in 25 games then they did in 31 games last season.
The five averaged 54 combined minutes per game in 1990-91. Through 25 games this season, the five have averaged 132 minutes per game. The biggest increases in playing time have come for Oldendorf (from 1 minute per game to 20) and Mitchell (from 2 to 24).
The Huskies have the rest of the week off before ending their regular-season with Senior Recognition Day against Texas Tech, Saturday (2:05 p.m.) at Chick Evans Field House.