By Doug Halberstadt
It was a little more than a month or so ago that I wrote a column praising the great play of the Northern Illinois University (NIU) men’s basketball team. At that time, they were the hottest team in the state and vying for first place in their conference. I must have hexed them.
The Huskies’ season is now officially over, and my, how things have changed. They finished with a woeful 10-20 record. The Huskies lost to Eastern Michigan University 65-59 in the first-round of the FirstEnergy Mid-American Conference Tournament at EMU’s Convocation Center last Sunday afternoon, March 7, to conclude their 2010 schedule.
NIU’s Head Coach Ricardo Patton maintained a positive attitude despite his team’s nosedive. He said: “We were ready to play today, but obviously came up short. I thought (Xavier) Silas did a nice job; he didn’t settle for the three-ball, and our guys were resilient. We came here on a mission to win the ball game. We had two more field goals than them, had one more three, and out-rebounded them by 12 with 11 offensive rebounds. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to the free throw line enough to pull this thing out in the end.
“We return our top-10 scorers next season, but we need to get tougher and grow up as a team a lot in the off-season,” Patton added. “We need to play better on the road, find ways to throw the first punch instead of withstanding it, and get stronger. Help is also on the way with some good young players—we’ll get started on making this team better right away. I’m excited about next season, and am confident we’ll put a product out on the floor that our fans will be proud of.”
Northern Illinois is set to return 13 players from its 2009-10 roster to next season’s team, including 96 percent of its scoring, 90 percent of its rebound totals and 94 percent of its assist output. The Huskies will also welcome at least two newcomers, redshirt freshman guard Antone Christian and incoming freshman forward Nate Rucker, who signed with NIU last November.
Next year, I won’t be so hasty to sing the Huskies’ praises. No more Huskie hexes from yours truly. Maybe they’ll respond by winning a few more games than they did this year. That seems like a fair deal to me.
From the Mar. 10-16, 2010 issue