Thursday night the NMU men’s basketball team (4-8 GLIAC, 9-8 overall) will try to overcome a five-game losing streak when it takes on Ferris State (7-5 GLIAC, 9-8 overall).
Head coach Dean Ellis said for his team to be successful they need another full-team effort similar to Saturday’s game against Saginaw Valley.
Against the Cardinals, the ‘Cats played with the effort to win the game, but not the shots as SVSU walked away with the 74-69 win. NMU shot 37.5 percent from the floor and 25 percent from behind the arch.
Despite the statistics, Ellis said it was a step in the right direction.
“That was one of our best games of the year. The guys did a great job getting ready to play, and I think that was one of our better efforts,” Ellis said. “Everybody pitched in and did what they could do, and I’m as proud of this group as I’ve ever been.”
Senior guard Tyler Kazmierkoski, who netted 11 points coming off the bench, said this loss was nearly as good as a win.
“Everybody was into the game and I told those guys that this was the best loss I’ve ever had as far as our team attitude,” he said.
Keeping a positive attitude against Ferris State will be important, especially on the defensive side of the ball, as the Bulldogs bring in the second best offense in the league averaging nearly 80 points a game.
“We play a zone that is all about effort. You got to talk and communicate and we did that (against SVSU),” Kazmierkoski said. “We made strides. Like I said, it is all about heart and if you’re not playing that zone hard you are going to get picked apart.”
Coming off the loss the ‘Cats tried to maintain the positive energy they took away from the SVSU game and utilize it in practice this week.
Redshirt freshman Raymont McElroy said the energy on the team is different now and the team as a whole is playing a lot better.
“We all learned a lot as far as each other’s roles and how we all need to pick each other up” he said. “Before we weren’t doing that, to be honest, there were some individual attitudes on the team, including myself, and basically we overcame that.”
Ferris State leads the league in assists and is second in steals per game. On top of that, the Bulldogs have the GLIAC’s leading scorer in sophomore forward/center Justin Keenan who averages just over 20 points a contest.
The Wildcats’ four top scorers, are McElroy and Kazmierkoski and junior guards Marc Renelique and Chris Warner.
McElroy said in order for the ‘Cats to win against Ferris he and the other leaders will have to be at the top of their game.
“Chris, Kazmierkoski and Mark are our best shooters, and with them not hitting it’s kind of hard for us,” he said. “But when we come in here next time we know we are going to go hard, and we know what we have to as far as us being together.”
The season isn’t over for the ‘Cats but Warner said after the game on Saturday the ‘Cats are fighting an uphill battle.
Next for NMU, after Ferris, is Grand Valley, the second place team in the GLIAC, followed by Findlay and Ashland, two teams NMU has already lost to.
“There are still a lot of games left and there still is time to turn it around. And hopefully we could feed off that,” Warner said. “But it is not going to get any easier. We have a couple teams that are really good teams. And every team in this league is good and we can’t take any one for granted.”
Tipoff for Thursday’s game starts at 7:30 p.m. and NMU is in action again on Saturday against the Grand Valley State Lakers at 3 p.m. Both games are at the Berry Events Center.