Molis leads Huskies with career-high 31

By Wes Swietek

The NIU men’s basketball team and the Valparaiso Crusaders played to a standstill for most of Saturday’s game.

But in the end, the difference turned out to be the Huskies’ Brian Molis.

The 6-4 senior scored a career-high 31 points, including 6-of-6 shooting from the three-point line to lead NIU to an 81-75 victory at Valparaiso.

The Mid-Continent Conference win pushes NIU over the .500 mark in the conference at 7-6, 10-13 overall.

The Crusaders (5-17, 2-9) had a 41-38 halftime lead and the advantage continued to seesaw through most of the game. But with 6 minutes left, the Huskies went on an 11-0 run sparked by back-to-back threes from Mike Hidden and Molis.

“We played some good defense, got the rebound and beat them down the court a couple of times,” NIU head coach Brian Hammel said. “That was a good series—those two three-pointers really helped.”

The Huskies hit 8-of-10 free throws in the final minutes to preserve the victory.

“It was a nip and tuck ballgame the whole way—we only broke away with a few minutes left,” said Hammel, who has now seen Molis explode for 58 points in the last two games.

“I’ve always believed that shooting is confidence and rhythm and (Saturday) night reinforced my opinion,” Hammel said. “There’s no question that (Molis) was in his rhythm.

“The team was unselfish—the kids did a good job of looking for him,” Hammel said.

Hidden added 17 points and five assists, Vaurice Patterson nine assists and walk-on Gerry Lorenzi a career-high eight points for NIU.

The Huskies will be looking to win their third in a row tonight at the UIC Pavillion (8:05 p.m.) as they take on the Illinois-Chicago Flames.

The Flames are 11-11, 7-5 after a 69-65 loss against conference leader Wisconsin-Green Bay Thursday.

“They’re a very athletic team,” Hammel said. “We’ll have to control the tempo of the game. They’ll try to trap and press to force turnovers.”

The Flames have been hurt inside this season, so UIC head coach Bob Hallberg started five guards Friday against UW-GB— a tactic UIC might use Monday.

“I think it’s possible,” Hammel said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to take advantage of that. We’ll be ready to go either way.”

The game will be aired live on SportsChannel Chicago.