Final: Loyola 53, NIU 46
We're only four games into the 2012-13 season, but it's clear this NIU team has a long ways to go. Growning pains were expected for a team which is starting two freshmen and two sophomores, and they've clearly shown.
The Huskies can't afford to go cold for an entire half like they did Saturday, when NIU shot just 23 perecent from the field before halftime. Sure, the Huskies (1-3) only trailed by one at the break before the Ramblers (4-2) pulled ahead, but NIU could have been in control early with decent shooting.
Instead, the Huskies are still looking for their frst win over a Division I team. Their next opportunity to get that is Tuesday against Illinois-Chicago. Tip-off is 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center.
Second half: 11:40 left
The Huskies are finding more consistency on offense, but Loyola has started to pull away, as the Ramblers lead 35-27.
One player I've been impressed with so far this season is freshman shooting guard Akeem Springs, who is currently 4 of 8 from the field and has 10 points.
It's not surprising to see this young team struggle early on, but Springs has been a bright spot.
Halftime: Loyola 16, NIU 15
Somehow, NIU is still in this game despite its poor offensive performance in the first half. The Huskies went just 6 of 26 (23 percent) from the field in the period, looking like a team that's going to really take awhile to gel.
Have to give credit to the Huskies defense, which has held the Ramblers to just 5 of 19 (26 percent) shooting. I'm not sure I've every watched a half of collegiate basketball which has had so few points scored.
Just one more note from the first half, senior guard Tony Nixon is playing his first game of the season. He's been out with a leg injury.
First half: 7:55 left
The Huskies are having trouble putting the ball in the basket so far. NIU is just 4 of 18 from the field, although they Huskies are still in the game, trailing 14-10.
Poor shooting was a theme against Valpo, and it's showing up again.
Starters for NIU: Akeem Springs, Daveon Balls, Kevin Gray, Keith Gray and Aksel Bolin Balls had a good game off the bench at Valpo. Not too surprised he's starting at point guard now, though expect fellow freshman Travon Baker to see significant time as well.
10 minutes until tip-off
One thing I like about Northern Illinois' scheduling philosophy is the fact the Huskies are willing to play the other in-state schools.
Today, NIU takes on Loyola, with Illinois-Chicago visiting the NIU Convocation Center on Wednesday. The Huskies are also playing SIU-Edwardsville and DePaul this season.
Not sure how much these games affect recruiting between the schools, but to me they're good for everyone involved. Plus, why drive three or four hours when you can make a shorter, 90-minute trip?
I covered NIU's 69-46 loss at Valparaiso on Nov. 13, and the Huskies' youth showed. It will be interesting to see how the team looks today, four games into he season.