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The North Wind

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Lily Gouin
Lily Gouin
Assistant Sports Editor

Hi! My name is Lily Gouin I am in my third year here at NMU. I am from Appleton, WI majoring in communications and double minoring in multimedia journalism and public relations. In my free time, I like...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
Opinion — It's okay to outgrow your college friends
Megan Poe April 12, 2024

NMU men win second straight at home

                If Saturday’s home conference win against Wayne State didn’t make a statement, the NMU men’s basketball team made sure the next game against the conference’s top-scoring team did.

                Northern defeated Hillsdale College 67-66 on Sunday, proving despite the ‘Cats 13-loss record, NMU is a team that can play with the best of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference (GLIAC).

                “It’s hard to look at our record –for us even – and realize how hard we play and how great these kids have handled everything,” NMU head coach Dean Ellis said.

                The ‘Cats have struggled with issues of depth all season after the loss of key players and have had to entirely change their game plan to accommodate the changed lineup. Early in the season, NMU (4-13, 4-5 GLIAC) started 1-12 and struggled to adapt to the altered style of play.

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But if Sunday’s game is any indication, the ‘Cats are now buying into the new system – and excelling within it.

                “I thought the intensity level in that gym was as good as it’s been in a long time,” Ellis said after the Hillsdale game. “I just thank god we had enough to hold off and win, because it’s a great feeling.”

                Hillsdale came in to the matchup scoring 84 points per game, ranked no. 1 in the GLIAC in that category. The Wildcats were scoring a conference-low of 58 points per contest.

                After NMU started the game with a four point lead, the Chargers led most of the first frame until the waning moments of the half, when NMU sophomore guard Jerard Ajami nailed a three-pointer to put the ‘Cats ahead.  NMU led at the break 30-28.

                NMU’s head coach said he felt his team was playing well at the half despite shooting only 29 percent from the floor.

                “We talked to them at half time and I thought we’d be alright if we could make some shots,” Ellis said. “I told our whole bench – I told everybody, ‘You can make them go in, and you can make them go in.’”

            In the second half, Ellis said the ‘Cats came out with more enthusiasm.

            They competed,” Ellis said. “They kind of jacked up their intensity level in the second half.”

                On the strength of the Wildcats’ 2-3 zone defense, Hillsdale was held to 25.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc in the contest. The Chargers average better than 41 percent shooting from three.

                “We’ve played that zone all year and that was the best I’ve seen them move on the perimeter,” Ellis said. “They’ve got great shooters on the perimeter and they never really did get their feet set and get comfortable to shoot one and as a result, they missed a bunch of them down the stretch.”

                Scoring for NMU came largely from senior guard Jake Suardini, who tallied a career-high 32 points. Suardini scored the ‘Cats first six points in the contest, as well as eight straight points during the second half that provided NMU with its largest point margin of eight, 51-43.

                Suardini’s coach compared his senior leader’s play this season to that of last year’s GLIAC player of the year, Northern’s Ricky Volcy.

                “You know, you feel so comfortable with the ball in his hands,” Ellis said. “It’s like Ricky – when the game’s close and tough, you’re used to getting him the ball. Now, when the game’s tight and tough, you get it to Jake.”

                This is the second time this season that Suardini has topped his career high in points. Sunday’s game was only eight days after scoring a then-career-high 23 points on Jan. 12 against Northwood University.

                Suardini said he felt his eight-straight points were the spark the Wildcats needed in the second half.

                “I thought we were playing a little lackadaisical in the second half,” Suardini said. “I just tried to give us a little spark and then, from there on, we just played hard.”

                After the majority of the season on the road, Suardini added that fans were now getting to see how well the team could play.

                “Nobody really got to see us play because we’ve been on the road the whole time, and now people are getting to see how we actually can play,” he said. “We play hard at times, and we’re sloppy at times, too. But, I think we’re a good team and we’re starting to show it.”

                Suardini was aided in the backcourt with the addition of Ryan Reichel, who was in his second game back after injury.

                “It’s so nice to have him back. He gives everybody a spark. He’s got energy and his defensive play, you could see today, shut down people.”

                Reichel scored three points and recorded one steal for the game, his points coming from a three-point field goal early in the second half that got the entire bench off their seats.

                “It felt like I won an NCAA championship after that one because I don’t really shoot threes,” Reichel said. “It felt nice to look for one finally.”

                According to the NMU coach, Reichel was an integral part of the team’s zone defense against Hillsdale.

                “He covered on the top of that zone as good as anyone I’ve ever seen,” Ellis said. “He went to the right spots at the right time. Nobody had a clean look up there, and a big part of that was him. I had to actually tell him twice to back up a little bit.”

                Reichel said the team was all working together on defense, and that attributed to the success of the Wildcat zone.

                “Today’s zone was – we all were on the same page, clicking and closing out, and that’s one of the best shooting teams we’ll play,” he said.

                Ajami added 20 points and five rebound for NMU and Tyler Kazmierkoski picked up seven points and pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds.

                “Our team – you can’t ask for more,” Kazmierkoski said about the Hillsdale game. “We battled through more than one type of adversity in today’s game. It’s just – we’re really clicking.”


Hillsdale College vs Northern Michigan University

1/20/08 4 p.m. at Marquette, Mich.


 Summary (field goals – free throws – total points)

HILLSDALE COLLEGE (10-6, 5-3 GLIAC) Tony Gugino 8-16 7-11 23; Tim Homan 8-17 2-2 22; Keith MacKenzie 3-12 3-5 12; Evan Steward 2-8 0-0 4; Travis Worst 1-4 1-2 3; Nick Meinert 1-2 0-0 2; Chris Skaggs 0-1 0-0 0; Tyler Brand 0-0 0-0 0; Joe Caruso 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 23-62 13-20 66.

 NORTHERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY (4-13, 4-5 GLIAC) Jake Suardini 9-24 11-13 32; Jerard Ajami 8-21 1-2 20; Tyler Kazmierkoski 2-5 2-2 7; Darren Jones 1-5 3-4  5; Ryan Reichel 1-3 0-0 3; Eric Sirrine 0-3 0-0 0; Kyle Greene 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-61 17-21 67.

 Hillsdale College………….   28   38  –   66

Northern Michigan University..   30   37  –   67

3-point goals–Hillsdale College 7-27 (Tim Homan 4-9; Keith MacKenzie 3-11; Joe Caruso 0-2; Evan Steward 0-4; Tony Gugino 0-1), Northern Michigan University 8-21 (Jerard Ajami 3-7; Jake Suardini 3-9; Tyler Kazmierkoski 1-4; Ryan Reichel 1-1).

Fouled out–Hillsdale College-None, Northern Michigan University-Eric Sirrine.

Rebounds–Hillsdale College 40 (Tony Gugino 13), Northern Michigan University 45 (Tyler Kazmierkoski 11).

Assists–Hillsdale College 14 (Keith MacKenzie 5), Northern Michigan University 10 (Jerard Ajami 3; Jake Suardini 3).

Total fouls—Hillsdale College 19, Northern Michigan University 20. Technical fouls—Hillsdale College-None, Northern Michigan University-None.

 Attendance -278



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