Raiders spoil Huskies’ weekend

By Wes Swietek

Spectators at this weekend’s men’s basketball games saw examples of torrid and ice-cold shooting, both turned in by the Huskies.

In Monday night’s 84-70 loss to Wright State, NIU shot a bone-chilling 17 percent in the first half.

Just 48 hours earlier, the Huskies shot 70 percent in the second half of an 85-81 win over Illinois-Chicago.

Monday night’s loss dropped NIU’s record to 5-10, 3-3 in the Mid-Continent Conference. Wright State moved to 8-6, 4-2.

Despite the Huskies’ shooting slump against the Raiders and a huge height and depth disadvantage, head coach Brian Hammel’s troops repeatedly battled back to keep the 2,238 fans hoping for a comeback.

NIU trailed 37-25 after its cold-shooting first half and didn’t have much luck cutting into Wright State’s lead in the second half until, with five-and-a-half minutes left, Marlin Simms blocked a WS shot which led to a Brian Molis lay-up to make it 68-60. Molis went out with an ankle injury on the play but returned later.

Shortly after, with the crowd back into the game, David Mitchell hit a free throw to make it 68-61. NIU then stole the ball and had a fast break, but Vaurice Patterson’s errant pass dribbled off a teammate out of bounds. NIU never recovered and the Raiders regained control of the game.

“That turnover was critical, it really hurt us,” Hammel said.

What also hurt the Huskies was the play of senior Wright State guard Marcus Mumphrey, who had a game-high 26 points.

“We played an outstanding basketball team. Their big guys … took their toll on us,” Hammel said.

As for the cold shooting, “you can get in a rut as (easily) as you can get hot,” Hammel explained.

Saturday against Illinois-Chicago (7-8, 4-2), the Huskies were as hot as they were cold Monday. Behind their freshmen, tenacious defense and rebounding, NIU overcame the Flames in front of 2,719 at the fieldhouse.

Freshman Simms led the Huskies with a career-high 16 points and provided the sparks that extinguished the Flame’s comeback attempts. Fellow freshman Patterson, forced to start at the point because of the Huskies’ depleted ranks, chipped in with 11 points and seven assists in 34 minutes.

NIU struggled throughout the first half but managed to forge a 41-41 tie at halftime.

The lead seesawed throughout a frantic second half, before a Simms three-pointer with 3:31 left gave the Huskies a permanent lead. Simms added a 14-footer and an assist to Hidden on two of NIU’s next three possessions.

The Huskies hit five-of-six free throws down the stretch to seal the win. NIU out-rebounded UIC 39-19 for the game and shot the aforementioned sizzling 70 percent in the second half. The contest was the 400th in fieldhouse history and gave NIU a 287-113 record since the fieldhouse opened in 1957.