Huskies swipe ’Cats in season finale

Katie Bultman

Michigan Tech defeated the Wildcats in front of one of the largest crowds of the season, with a 72-48 victory over NMU on Saturday, March 2.

The Wildcats ended their 2012-13 season with a 5-21 overall record, and a 4-18 GLIAC conference record.

“We played well, we just lost it after the half,” freshman center Matt Iverson said. “Next year we’ll bring in a couple of new players and, hopefully, we  stay healthy.”The Wildcats beat the Huskies 59-55 at home back on Saturday, Feb. 2, leaving both teams hungry for a victory in the rematch at Tech. Fans filled the gym with nearly 2,000 people, one of the biggest crowds of the year.

Student assistant coach Curtis Rybski said both teams were prepared going into the final rival game of the season.

“[We] knew it was the last game, knew it was the rival and were focused,” Rybski said. “At the same time, it was a must-win for [Tech] going into playoffs. We were up against a tough team with the best player in the league, Ali Haidar.”

The ’Cats kept up with Michigan Tech for a majority of the first period.

Around the 13-minute mark, Michigan Tech’s Jordan Chartier put in a three-pointer to take the lead by five, jumpstarting a wave of scoring for the Huskies.

Michigan Tech began to pull away by as much as nine points within the next few minutes.

With 7:31 left in the first half, freshman guard Stephen Pelkofer sunk a three-point shot that closed the gap to bring the ’Cats within four points of Tech.

Junior forward Matthew Craggs cut the lead to two points with a layup at 6:43 in the first half, leaving the Wildcats down 23-25.

The two point deficit was the closest the ’Cats came to taking a lead in Houghton.

From that point, Michigan Tech’s Ali Haidar went on a scoring streak, sinking eight points within four minutes.

His run put the Huskies up 36-28 at halftime.

Iverson, who was unable to play due to a concussion injury from the previous game, said Haidar played hard against the ’Cats.

“It was his last home game as a senior and he’s a great player,” Iverson said. “He had a great night at home.”

Junior forward Scooter Johnson opened the half for NMU with a jump shot, and the ’Cats down 30-42.

The Wildcats followed the next nine minutes with only four points, all of which were from the free-throw line.

Northern Michigan could not make up the difference, and Tech kept up a 24 point lead through the end of the game.

Senior forward TJ Cameron finished with a team-high 15 points for NMU to end his career as a Wildcat. Cameron also contributed three rebounds, one steal and one assist.

Craggs, who was recently named the NMU February Scholar Athlete of the Month, added 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds against the Huskies.

Craggs was nominated by instructor Dr. Olga J. Hocking for holding a 3.29 GPA as a student athlete.

In the final results of the game against Michigan Tech, the ’Cats allowed Haidar to dominate the glass with 10 rebounds and 17 points.

Rybski said NMU had prepared defensively for Michigan Tech’s offense that would challenge the ’Cats down low.

“We knew Haidar was going to come up strong,” Rybski said. “We planned to double him and force them to kick it out, where the floor percentage was lower.”

The Wildcats forced 11 turnovers by the end of the game, but the Huskies still managed to shoot 64 percent from the floor. Michigan Tech out-rebounded the Wildcats 27-14.

Rybski said NMU played strong throughout the game, even when they could have thrown in the towel.

“[We] played tough all the way through,” Rybski said. “We had so many guys out throughout the season, and we’re very proud down the stretch the way they finished. We’re proud of them for not giving up. We’re always looking forward to the next season and what we have to work on as players, as coaches, and as a program as a whole.”