Men’s basketball ready for conference play


The NMU men’s basketball team opens conference play this weekend with payback on their mind.

Last season the Wildcats opened conference play at Northwood University with a loss. This year, Northwood (2-0, 0-0 GLIAC) comes to NMU to start the GLIAC season play Thursday. A kind welcoming for the Timberwolves isn’t expected.

“They beat us down there, and then here last year, so we got a chip on our shoulder with them coming in,” said sophomore guard Raymont McElroy.

Northern (2-1, 0-0 GLIAC) opened the season with a close 64-70 loss to Division I opponent UW-Green Bay, but has won its last two games by an average scoring margin of 26 points. The non-conference schedule to start the season has given the Wildcats a chance to prepare for a tough GLIAC season, according to head coach Dean Ellis.

“We still need to play with a positive demeanor more,” Ellis said. “Winning helps that. Winning helps your team chemistry and team energy and we need to come out with some positive team energy this weekend.”

Helping the Wildcats the last two games has been strong defensive play, which McElroy credits to the faith Ellis has in his players this year.

“This year he trusts us to play man [defense] a lot more. So right now we’re trying to adjust ourselves to playing man,” McElroy said. “Basically we got different looks and are just trying to throw people off a little bit.”

Through three games this year, McElroy leads all players averaging 18.7 points per game to go along with 5.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds an outing. Senior guard Marc Renelique is second on the team, averaging 15.7 points.

Inside men, sophomore Jared Benson and freshman Mylan Murphy, along with sophomore Eric Hawley have been a strong force so far this season, but McElroy feels the three have yet to hit their potential.

“In the next five or six games, I think you will see a different Mylan Murphy and I think you will see another Benson and another Hawley,” McElroy said.

In the Nov. 30 game against Finlandia University, Benson brought in 12 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Murphy added eight points and eight boards on the night, while Hawley came off the bench to bring in nine points and six rebounds. Ellis felt the three gave the Wildcats a boast in the second half of Monday’s game that was lacking in the first half.

“The play of Murphy, Benson and Hawley inside was a big part of that too,” Ellis said. “They may not score a lot of points, but they did a lot of tough rebounding.”

So far this season NMU’s bench has given the Wildcats a solid relief to the starters with the games play barely skipping a beat. Along with Hawley, senior guard Austin Rowe and senior forward Sebastien Salois have been raising their game.

Ellis was pleased with Salois Monday, as he scored nine points in 11 minutes against the Lions.

“He came off the bench and made the couple three’s and another tough shot and defended well,” said Ellis. “It’s going to be important for him to fit into the rotation more.”

With Northwood and a strong Wayne State (2-1, 0-0 GLIAC) opponent heading to town this week, getting the starters rested became an important aspect for Ellis when the team pulled away in the second half of the game Monday night.

“That was a major concern of mine, and you hate to think about that going into the game because you never know how the game is going to unfold,” Ellis said.

The Northwood game time is set for 7:30 p.m. in the Berry Events Center Thursday, Dec. 3. NMU takes on the Wayne State Warriors at 1:00 p.m. in the BEC on Saturday, Dec. 5.

“We need to protect our own court here,” Ellis said. “There are 22 conference games and we’re diving in there Thursday and we’re going to be ready to compete and play hard.”