No break needed for men’s basketball


The NMU men’s basketball team took little time off over the winter break compiling a 4-2 record during what was suppose to be a relaxing vacation for most.

The Wildcats (4-4 GLIAC, 7-5 overall) dive into the second half of their schedule with a bit of confidence after an impressive four game winning streak that included three road victories.

The victories included at Northwood, 81-72, on Dec. 19, Bemidji State, 84-75, on Dec. 29, at Michigan Tech, 66-55, on Jan. 2 and at Tiffin, 70-56, on Jan.7. Head coach Dean Ellis came away from the four game stretch impressed by the strong play from a duo of sophomores in guard Raymont McElroy and center Jared Benson.

“Benson became a big factor for us,” Ellis said. “He was touching it inside and Raymont had three or four great games scoring in the low 20s in every game. He had a great stretch.”

McElroy was named the GLIAC Player of the Week after his efforts in the Bemidji State and Michigan Tech games. McElroy is now 6th in the conference in scoring averaging 17.5 an outing to go along with 4.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds.

An inside presence and block the lane mentality has been missing from the Wildcats team in the past. Ellis feels with each game Benson is bringing that attitude and improving on his play. The 6′ 10” sophomore is averaging 11 points a game as well as 6.6 rebounds and 15 blocks on the year, ranking fifth in the GLIAC.

“Jared is getting better and better each game in there,” Ellis said. “They’re all improving inside and the ball is being spread around a bit more.”

The four game winning streak ended with the team’s most recent loss at Ashland on Jan. 9 by a score of 55-67. Players and coaches alike won’t dwell on the loss however, with the thicker half of the GLIAC schedule still to come. The return of injured senior guard Marc Renelique is also expected this week.

“Were doing something different than we did last year,” McElroy said. “Our defense is different, our offense is different. The first half was just getting used to it. Everyone needs to get comfortable and the key thing is chemistry.”

After three consecutive road games, the Wildcats welcome top ranked conference opponent Findlay (6-2 GLIAC, 10-3 overall) Jan. 14, and Hillsdale (2-6 GLIAC, 2-10 overall) Jan. 16. Findlay comes to Marquette as the reining Division II National Champion and were the No.18 ranked team in the country this season. McElroy said that NMU won’t be nervous in their arrival, however.

“There is a chip on our shoulder,” McElroy said. “This is the place to knock [Findlay] off. They’re ranked 18th in the country, and we think they’re the most beatable than they have [been] in the previous years.”

Findlay has won seven games in a row and look to be regaining some of the momentum they came into the 2009-2010 season with.

“You’ve got to be stable on both ends against them,” Ellis said. “They’re a good defensive team and a very patient offensive team.”

Although Findlay is the main focus of the Wildcats right now, a dismal 2-10 record by the Hillsdale Chargers won’t be overlooked come Saturday according to Ellis.

“Our league is very close right now,” Ellis said. “I think any team can beat anybody on a given night and we’re no different.”

Game time for Findlay is set for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Berry Events Center.

Hillsdale will tip off at 1:00 p.m. in the BEC on Saturday.