Hoopers return home in search of wins

Jon Young

The road hasn’t been kind to the NMU men’s basketball team as they dropped a pair of games last weekend running their record to 0-2 in the GLIAC and 1-4 overall.

The record isn’t as lopsided as it appears as all of the Wildcats losses have been by 11 points or less. Head coach Doug Lewis said his team is on the verge of turning the corner but they need to work on closing out opponents.

“It’s a situation where we’ve been losing the last couple games down the stretch,” Lewis said. “We can’t get defensive stops, can’t get rebounds and we haven’t been playing tough and those are the things we have to get better at.”

That situation replayed itself in the ’Cats, 75-68 loss to Walsh University on Thursday, Nov. 29. NMU held a 34-24 lead at halftime and remained ahead with just over six minutes left in the game.

“We should have won,” said sophomore guard Quinten Calloway. “We were up by 10 at half and we were up by 11 with 14 minutes to go. They went on a run and we couldn’t come together and get a stop. We need to do a better job of coming together when they make runs and get stops and to stop their momentum.”

The Wildcats handled the Cavaliers pressure in the first half only committing three turnovers. In the second half NMU was forced into 10 turnovers. Lewis said the team needs to adjust better when the opposition makes a run.

“It’s a game of runs,” Lewis said. “You know we play solid for 34 minutes, we didn’t turn the ball over, second half we play pretty well but then the other team was more determined, and you know they put a little bit of pressure on us and we kind of cracked.”

The ’Cats have played their last four games on the road and have played two exhibition games on the road against Division I schools. Lewis said the road tests should help his younger players develop the toughness he is looking for.

“Experience, the one thing about getting tough is experience,” Lewis said. “(Learning) the ups and the downs of college basketball and when you get that experience you know what it takes to win games on the road, so it’s helping my young guys grow up.”

Calloway led NMU with 15 points. Junior forward Matt Craggs added 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Junior center Scooter Johnson chipped in 12 points and sophomore forward Kendall Jackson added another 12 points.

On Saturday, Dec. 1 it was a slow first half that proved too much for NMU as they lost to Malone University, 75-66.

The Wildcats stumbled out of the gates falling behind, 44-26, at the end of the first half. NMU outscored Malone 40-31, in the second half but never got within seven points of the Pioneers.

“First half was bad; we didn’t play well at all in the first half,” Calloway said. “Second half we showed some improvement and got close but we couldn’t finish it off.”

Craggs led the ’Cats with 22 points and eight rebounds. Junior forward TJ Cameron also netted 12 points in the loss.

NMU is home this weekend as they take on a pair of GLIAC South opponents.

The ’Cats tipoff with Hillsdale at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6 and take on Findlay at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8.

“We’re just happy to be home, we don’t care who we play,” Lewis said. “We’ve played a tough schedule so far. Hillsdale made the NCAA tournament last year, Findlay made the NCAA tournament. They’re two teams that have been pretty good the last three or four years so we have our work cut out but we’re just happy to be home.”