Hammel searching for solution-oriented troop

By Wes Swietek

Despite the fact that the NIU men’s basketball team was facing two of the better Mid-Continent Conference teams this weekend and earned a split, head Huskies coach Brian Hammel isn’t satisfied.

“I’m greedy, I want to win them all,” Hammel said. “(The split) was disappointing from an emotional standpoint because we gave so much.”

After beating Illinois-Chicago 85-81 Saturday, NIU made repeated comebacks against Wright State Monday, only to drop an 84-70 decision.

“We need to rebound physically, mentally and emotionally and that was a problem (Monday) night; we need to win all of our home games,” Hammel said.

The quest to win all of their home games is an especially daunting task for the Huskies who are down to six scholarship players and three walk-ons.

But instead of folding, the remaining NIU players have come together and turned in a respectable 3-3 mark in the Mid-Continent.

“That’s what we need to do—we need to rally around ourselves and get stronger,” Hammel said. “What this program needs to do is take what it has and work with it.

“We’re depleted … we’ve identified the problem and now we need to be solution-oriented.”

And since an automatic NCAA bid goes to the winner of the conference tournament, a repeat trip to the NCAAs is not out of the question. There is, however, a big obstacle. Namely, the Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix, who travel to DeKalb for a Feb. 8 contest.

UW-GB is 5-0 in the M-C and 14-1 overall. The Phoenix have proven that their preseason selection as prohibitive league favorites was justified.

But Hammel feels UW-GB can be beaten.

“I think they’ll lose a (conference) game—there’s great parity. I think it’s tough for anyone to go unbeaten,” Hammel said.

UW-GB has been called a one-man team. The man being guard Tony Bennett. “Bennett can finish (score) all the time, but he can also be a creator,” Hammel said. “That’s the sign of a great player.”