Wildcats lose two games in weekend

Katie Bultman

The home court did not prove to be an advantage for the men’s basketball team last weekend when the Wildcats were defeated in two well-played games.

The team lost their first game against Saginaw Valley State University on Thursday, Jan. 17, and then lost a close game to the No. 1 team in the conference, Wayne State, on Saturday, Jan. 19.

On Thursday, Saginaw Valley came out strong with the tip-off. The Cardinals sunk the first shot at 19:07 on the clock.

Down by six early on, the ’Cats were the first to call a timeout.

With time to regroup, NMU was able to come within two points of the Cardinals, but throughout the period SVSU spread the lead by as much as 12 points.

With 7:00 left in the first half, sophomore guard Quinten Calloway assisted junior forward Matt Craggs for two points.

Craggs drew the foul and the free throw was good, leaving the Wildcats down by only a nine point margin.

The ’Cats remained down by nine going into the second half, 24-33.

Several fast breaks killed the Wildcats down the stretch, but NMU brought the fire towards the halfway mark in the final period. Defense contributed with steals from Craggs, Calloway, senior forward TJ Cameron, and sophomore forward Kendall Jackson.

However, NMU could not catch up and Saginaw Valley left the court with a 56-51 victory over the ’Cats.

Head coach Doug Lewis said he noticed a lapse in the performance throughout the night.

“We had no energy,” Lewis said. “I don’t want to make excuses but we pretty much sleep walked the first eight minutes of the game. We wanted to win the last seven minutes, and we played with urgency.”

On Saturday morning, NMU was back on the court to face Wayne State.

The Warriors are the only team in the GLIAC with an undefeated conference record.

The Wildcats took the court with an urgency that carried over from the previous night’s game.

Five minutes into the game, Craggs put up a shot from behind the arc that was good for three.

Jackson sunk another three at 13:56, and freshman guard Stephen Pelkofer was good for an additional three with 11:52 in the first period, giving the ’Cats their first lead of the game, up 12-11.

NMU shot 71 percent from the free throw line to improve their lead, and the Wildcats were up 25-22 at the half.

TJ Cameron said that the Wildcats worked well as a team to match Wayne State step-for-step.

“The first half we tried to get our chemistry going,” Cameron said. “Now we just need to find a way to pull out the close games.”

Cameron opened the second half with a three-point shot that was good for a six-point Wildcat lead.

With 15:31 left in the game, Wayne State tied up the score at 30, and from there the two teams went back and forth until the final buzzer.

The Wildcats were down by two with under one minute left. In the end, Wayne State pulled ahead for the 65-59 win.

Cameron said the team has come close to too many victories without being able to finish in the tough games.

“We’re right there,” Cameron said. “We just got to find a way to pull the close games out. We played hard. The only thing you want is to come out, play hard and keep fighting. They were just better than us tonight.”

Lewis said the ’Cats put up a good fight against the No. 1-ranked team.

“Our kids fought for 40 minutes and just got beat by a good team,” Lewis said. “We have to make the plays when it’s crunch time. You either win or you lose and I can’t be mad at my squad. Games like these come down to experience. Being a young team, we don’t have that yet.”

The Wildcats will hit the road this weekend to play at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24 at Lake Superior State and at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26 at Northwood.