WIU drops NIU despite Oldendorf’s career-day

By Wes Swietek

The NIU men’s basketball team had some big shoes to fill with the absence of leading scorer Brian Molis Saturday at Western Illinois.

Seven-one sophomore center Steve Oldendorf stepped in with a career performance. But it wasn’t enough as the Mid-Continent Conference rival Leathernecks held off the Huskies 71-66.

With 22 seconds left and NIU down by three, Marlin Simms missed a three-pointer. Vaurice Patterson then traveled at the five-second mark after NIU got the rebound. Two WIU free throws sealed the victory for the Leathernecks (7-7, 3-2).

The Huskies (5-11, 3-4) wasted the 16-point, 16-rebound effort of Oldendorf, who picked up the slack for Molis, out with a sprained ankle.

“That’s what we need from Steve—he just needs to believe in himself,” head coach Brian Hammel said. “It just shows how good a basketball player he can be.”

The depleted Huskies were down to eight healthy players for Saturday’s game.

But NIU led, 48-47, as late as the 10:28 mark of the second half. WIU used a 10-2 run to regain control of the game before the Huskies late charge.

NIU cut the lead to 66-64 on an Oldendorf dunk with a minute left, but couldn’t make the shots to give them the win.

“I just felt bad for the guys (because) we had a tremendous effort,” Hammel said. “We just need a better mental effort … we can’t be as careless with the ball.”

WIU was led by Charles Turner’s 18 points, while Mike Hidden chipped in with 16 and Randy Fens 14 for NIU.

The Huskies don’t have a chance to get much rest as they travel across the state to take on Mid-Continent rival Eastern Illinois, tonight at 7:30.

Eastern (8-6, 3-3) is coming off a 74-70 loss at the hands of league-leading Wisconsin-Green Bay.