NIU feeling the heat heading into UW-GB

By Wes Swietek

It’s a clear case of going from the frying pan into the fire.

The NIU men’s basketball team hasn’t exactly sizzled with a 4-8 season record going into the snake pit that is Wisconsin- Green Bay’s home gym tonight.

The Huskies do stand at 2-1 in Mid-Continent Conference action as they take on the arch-rival Phoenix at 7:30.

NIU head coach Brian Hammel knew, though, that this wouldn’t be the easiest of seasons as the Huskies returned only two seniors.

“I try not to get consumed by the wins and losses,” Hammel said. “I knew it would be a building process. We’re trying to keep our focus on improving one game at a time and getting the program headed in the right direction.”

Since the semester break, NIU lost at DePaul (90-77) and at Idaho State (97-92), had a three-game home stand with a win against Chicago State (106-100), a loss to Xavier (84-74) and a win over Valparaiso (77-66).

The Huskies then hit the road for three straight, losing to Akron (82-69), beating Cleveland State (82-77) and losing (83-65) at Southern Illinois.

“Right now, we’re playing average. Some nights we’re an A-plus and sometimes a D-minus,” Hammel said. “We need to do two things: cut down on our turnovers … and we need to do a better job on our opponents’ shooting percentage.”

And the 11-1 Phoenix (2-0 in Mid-Continent action) should

rovide NIU with one of its stiffest challenges of the year.

“I think De Paul was good and Southern was real good … (Green Bay) is very, very good,” Hammel said.

The Phoenix handed NIU three of its six losses last season and are led by Huskie-killer Tony Bennett.

“Bennett is a tremendous player—he has the total package,” Hammel said. “We’ll have to know where he is on the court at all times.

“They’re an experienced ball club, with some good underclassmen … they deserve to be a Top-25 team.”