Men battle for GLIAC playoff spot


The NMU men’s basketball team, with a 6-15 overall record, has recorded more losses than any other team in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, regardless of division-four more losses, in fact.

But overall losses aren’t the determining factor when it comes playoff time; in-conference records are. And there, the Wildcats’ 5-7 record keeps them in the hunt for a GLIAC playoff game.

The Wildcats sit at third place in the conference’s North division, tied with Northwood and one game behind second-place Michigan Tech. Finishing the season in second place would result in a playoff game at the Berry Events Center.

Already clinching playoff spots are the nation’s second-ranked team, Grand Valley (24-0 overall, 12-0 GLIAC) and the nation’s 10th- ranked team, Gannon (19-2, 11-1).

Thursday’s game at Ferris State is the first step to seeking that conference playoff spot for NMU. Then on Saturday, the ‘Cats face the undefeated GVSU Lakers on the road.

The Wildcats have already defeated the Bulldogs this season, winning 71-57 at the Berry two weeks ago. The Wildcats received double-digit scoring from each of “the big three,” in Tyler Kazmierkoski (18), Jerard Ajami (20) and Jake Suardini (24).

Ellis said that when his three leading scorers are putting up double-digits in the point category, that his team can compete with any team in the conference, adding that three scoring threats are difficult to defend.

With perimeter scoring comes the possibility for problems, though, and those problems were apparent during last week’s game at Lake Superior State, in which the Wildcats shot 29.1 percent from the field, including 0 for 4 from behind the arc in the second half. The ‘Cats fell to the Lakers 58-49.

“We’ve been shooting the ball great and all of a sudden, we’re shooting in the 20s,” Ellis said. “We defended great, and we did everything else as well as we’ve done all year, we just weren’t able to make some shots.”

The Wildcats faced a non-conference opponent after the loss to LSSU, when Northland Baptist College visited Marquette on Monday. The Wildcats proved too much for the small college, and defeated Northland 92-49.

NMU received scoring from senior walk-on Mike Polfus, who picked up 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-11 from the three-point line.

“I think he set a record for attempts,” Ellis said jokingly after the game. “But, really, I thought he did a good job out there. I thought, on the defensive end, he did a good job, too.”

Polfus, who played 28 minutes, said that he was tired after the game, and in dire need of a rest.

“I was having a little trouble getting the ball to the hoop at the end,” he admitted.

According to one of Polfus’ teammates, the Carney native spends endless hours on the Stairmaster and was still winded at the end of Monday’s game.

“Until you get out there and play the minutes, you don’t feel it,” Kazmierkoski said. “He started to feel it a bit. But he had a fun time, and it’s nice to see him finally get some minutes out there.”

Ellis said the non-conference game immediately before two big conference games on the road worked well.

“The way we played Monday, we were trying to get our guys ready for this Thursday game,” he said. “And I thought we did that.”