At home, Wildcats roll Warriors


                The NMU men’s basketball team picked up its third win of the season Saturday against the Wayne State University Warriors, winning by a final score of 61-54.

But the game’s final score was no indication of how lop-sided the contest really was.

The Wildcats (3-13, 3-5 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) never trailed in the contest, and with five minutes remaining in the second half, led by the game’s largest margin of 23 points.

The game against Wayne State was only NMU’s fourth at the Berry Events Center and for many Wildcat fans, Saturday’s contest was one of the first opportunities to see their team play great basketball.

“We’ve played great all year at times,” NMU head coach Dean Ellis said. “It’s just that people haven’t seen us.

“That’s how we play,” he added. “It wasn’t anything unusual. We’ve played that good and better at times during the year.”

The Warriors, currently on a road trip of the UP, played at Michigan Tech on Thursday and were downed by the Huskies 67-48. During both the Tech game and the game with Northern, Wayne State (9-7, 3-5 GLIAC) was without their top scorer and rebounder Wynn Sarden, who went down with an ankle injury on Jan. 12. Wayne State assistant coach E.J. Haralson said with Sarden being out, it would be important for other Warrior players to step up against NMU.

“The depth thing was our main concern coming in,” Haralson said. “With Wynn being our leading scorer and our leading rebounder, you just hoped that the other guys that don’t play as much come in, step up and give you some good minutes – unfortunately on this trip, no one did.”

The Wildcats are still without last year’s starting point guard, Chris Warner, who injured his knee early in the season, and NMU’s head coach said that the Warriors’ loss of their own leader wasn’t the difference in the game.

“We don’t have Chris Warner, so that to me, is a non-issue,” Ellis said. “It’s just part of the game, I guess.”

Early in the game’s first minutes, the Wildcats came out strong, scoring the first nine points of the contest. NMU junior forward Kyle Greene punctuated the early run with a rim-rattling dunk. Greene, starting only his second game of the season, scored eight points in 35 minutes of action for the Wildcats – six of those points came off dunks.

The Rogers City, Mich. native said his teammates gave him some words of advice after the game.

“They said I should be doing it more often,” Greene said. “I guess I’ll get the dunks when I can get them.”

Greene, who picked up three steals along with one block, was commended for his play in the team’s 2-3 defense as well.

“I thought Kyle Greene did a great job in the bottom of that zone,” Ellis said. “He obviously hasn’t started a lot for us, but he did a lot of good things tonight.”

The Wildcats were led in scoring by Gwinn-native Jake Suardini, with 13 points, and Jerard Ajami, who picked up 12. Wayne State’s coach said Ajami’s play, along with the Warriors poor defensive play was what led to his team’s loss.

“Jerard got it going early and we didn’t have an answer for him,” Haralson said. “He dominated us the entire game. We didn’t really have an answer for him, and that was pretty much it – Jerard shot the ball well and we gave up too many layups.”

Ajami shot 5 for 7 from the floor to start the game, for 10 first-half points. As a team, the Wildcats shot 61.5 percent during the first stanza.

NMU’s sophomore guard said that after a tough start to the season, the Wildcats are now starting to play together.

“At the beginning of the season, we weren’t at our top, and now I think we’re learning, and we learn every day,” Ajami said. “Everybody’s working together and everybody’s working within their roles and we’re all just clicking right now.”

Haralson also commended the defensive play of the Wildcats, who forced 21 Wayne State turnovers and held the Warriors to 41.2 percent shooting.

“We just struggled against the zone,” he said. “Our guys are very indecisive against the zone, and Northern did a good job of – not just guarding the man, but playing the passing lanes in the zone.”

The Wildcats next face Hillsdale College (10-5, 5-2 GLIAC) tomorrow at the Berry Events Center. Hillsdale, who defeated Michigan Tech 83-77 on Saturday, will have to travel down from Houghton for Sunday’s game, and NMU’s coach said that Hillsdale could have it a bit more difficult because of the travel.

“Their situation is a little tougher than ours, and we’re hoping to take advantage of our facility to prepare,” Ellis said.

Ajami added that he felt confident about the upcoming game.

“If we bring the defense that we brought tonight night for tomorrow night, I think we’ll do real good,” he said.


Wayne State vs Northern Michigan University

1/19/08 3 p.m. at Marquette, Mich.


Summary (field goals – free throws – total points)

WAYNE STATE (9-7, 3-5 GLIAC) Jason Saddler 7-13 1-6 15; Bryan Smothers 4-8 0-0 10; James Topping 4-9 1-2 9; Lendyn Davis 3-9 0-0 8; Tim Giles 2-4 0-0 6; Marcus Jackson 0-2 4-4 4; Lorenzo McClelland 1-4 0-0 2; Emanuel Carter 0-0 0-0 0; Larry Edwards 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-51 6-12 54.

NORTHERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY (3-13, 3-5 GLIAC) Jake Suardini 5-14 3-4 13; Jerard Ajami 6-13 0-1 12; Tyler Kazmierkoski 4-10 0-0 10; Kyle Greene 4-5 0-0 8; Darren Jones 3-5 2-2 8; Ryan Reichel 1-3 3-4 5; Eric Sirrine 1-2 1-3 3; Mike Polfus 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 24-52 11-16 61.

Wayne State……………….   25   29     54

Northern Michigan University..   36   25     61

3-point goals–Wayne State 6-18 (Tim Giles 2-4; Bryan Smothers 2-6; Lendyn Davis 2-6; Larry Edwards 0-2), Northern Michigan University 2-19 (Tyler Kazmierkoski 2-8; Jerard Ajami 0-4; Kyle Greene 0-1; Ryan Reichel 0-1; Jake Suardini 0-5).

Fouled out–Wayne State-None, Northern Michigan University-Darren Jones.

Rebounds–Wayne State 34 (Jason Saddler 10), Northern Michigan University 32 (Kyle Greene 10).

Assists–Wayne State 12 (Bryan Smothers 5), Northern Michigan University 11 (Jake Suardini 6).

Total fouls–Wayne State 13, Northern Michigan University 14. Technical fouls–Wayne State-None, Northern Michigan University-None.