The NMU men’s basketball team dropped two games last weekend against the top two teams in the GLIAC South. On Thursday, Feb. 3, the Wildcats (2-12 GLIAC, 7-14 overall) lost a hard-fought game 77-69 to the Wayne State Chargers (12-2 GLIAC, 17-4 overall). Assistant coach Malcolm Fields knew Wayne State would play a physical brand of basketball, and despite the ’Cats shooting 16 fewer free throws than the Chargers he said Northern still had a chance to win at the end.
“There were a lot of calls, you know it hurts, obviously,” Fields said. “But we were still close enough at the end of the game to have a shot to win and we didn’t make the plays we needed to make to win the game.”
Wayne State held a slim 35-34 halftime lead despite Northern shooting a higher percentage from the field. The ’Cats shot 46.6 percent for the game, while holding the Chargers to 43.8 percent. Freshman guard Chris Paquin thought the game came down to rebounding where the Chargers held a 42-31 advantage.
“We played pretty good,” Paquin said. “If we would have rebounded a little better we would have come out with the win.”
Paquin was one of five Northern players who scored in double figures with 12 points off the bench. Junior forward DeAndre Taylor led the ’Cats in scoring with 16 points. Freshmen forward Matthew Craggs and junior center Jared Benson each added 12. Junior guard Martin Gross also chipped in 10 points.
On Saturday, Feb. 5 the Wildcats traveled to Ohio to take on the No. 3 ranked Findlay Oilers (12-1 GLIAC, 19-1 overall). The ’Cats fell behind early and weren’t able to recover, losing 86-65. Early foul trouble plagued the Wildcats on offense.
“First half, we started off kind of shaky,” Fields said. “Benson got in foul trouble and that was our leading scorer going out. It took a big piece of our puzzle away from us.”
The Wildcats outscored the Oilers in the second half while holding them to 26.5 percent shooting from the field. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the 53-30 halftime deficit. Benson returned in the second half and scored 16 points; he finished with 18 for the game. Craggs added another 13 points and sophomore forward Mylan Murphy bounced back with 11 points and eight rebounds. Northern shot nearly 10 percent higher than Findlay and Fields said he likes the defensive improvement the last six games.
“We really feel like for the last five, six games we have really been playing well, especially defensively,” Fields said. “We believe the ball is going to bounce our way eventually and it’s a great opportunity Thursday when we play Lake State.”
The Wildcats travel to Sault Ste. Marie for their lone game of the weekend. The ’Cats will get a chance to beat the Lake Superior State University Lakers (7-7 GLIAC, 13-8 overall) after they narrowly escaped with a 79-73 win on Jan. 15 at the Berry Events Center. The game is on Thursday, Feb. 10 at 5:30 p.m.
“We just want to bring that same effort but better than we brought for that game, compete, defend, contest their open shots,” Fields said. “They’re going to feel comfortable being at home, so we’re going to have to come in and make it uncomfortable for them.”