The men’s basketball team closes out the season against the Michigan Tech Huskies at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 at Berry Events Center.
The ’Cats return home after dropping two games on the road. NMU lost to the No. 18-ranked Lake Superior State University Lakers, 76-61, Thursday, Feb. 20. The ’Cats then lost to the Northwood University Timberwolves, 68-67, Saturday, Feb. 22.
NMU held a four-point lead with three minutes remaining in the game, but a layup from sophomore guard Dylan Langkabel gave the Timberwolves the game-winning basket with 28 seconds left in the game. The loss dropped NMU to 4-17 in the GLIAC, 5-20 overall.
Senior forward Michael Smith said MTU is always one of the team’s favorite opponents to play.
“We have always had that little feud between us,” Smith said. “It’s a big rivalry, whether it’s because of the proximity or whatever it may be; it’s a special game. It’s really competitive. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the season, and my career, than beating Tech.”
Michigan Tech sits at fourth place in the GLIAC standings, with a record of 15-6 and 19-6 overall, and are fighting for home court advantage in the first round of the GLIAC tournament.
The Huskies won six of their last seven games. An 82-61 loss at LSSU on Saturday, Feb. 22 snapped the Huskies’ six-game win streak.
NMU head coach Bill Sall said he’s hoping for a large turnout in fan support against MTU.
“Fan support is huge,” Sall said. “I would love to see that we get a great response from the community. I hope we can get an environment that is closer to what we want to see, moving forward with this program.”
Earlier this season, the Huskies defeated the Wildcats, 69-58, Monday, Feb. 3 in Houghton. The ’Cats were within three points at the half, as Michigan Tech led, 32-29. The Huskies went on a 7-0 run to open the second half of the game. NMU came within four points at 15:37 in the second, but a 14-0 run from Michigan Tech gave the Huskies the win.
Junior guard Ethan Blackwell, sophomore guard Terry Nash and junior forward Chavis Mattison all scored 13 points each in the loss for the Wildcats.
Sall said the team will make adjustments from the first game against Tech to find a way to win.
“We did a good job in the first half of finding shooters,” Sall said. “In the second half, we realized that when Tech starts making a couple threes, it snowballs and suddenly you’re in a large deficit. We’re going to need a better effort defending the three-point line and taking advantage of offensive opportunities that Tech gives us.”
NMU earned all of their wins on their home court this season, with a 4-8 record at Berry Events Center. Last season, the Wildcats defeated the Huskies, 59-55, on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 at home.
Smith said the team is hoping to build momentum for the future with a win Thursday.
“We’re trying to build a program here; a win in the last game of the season will definitely carry over to next year,” Smith said. “We’ve got a lot of great guys coming back and things are looking good for this team’s future.”
The basketball teams will honor their seniors prior to the games Thursday with their annual Senior Night.
Sall said Michigan Tech is the perfect opponent for the team to end its season against.
“We’re not just playing a regular game,” Sall said. “We are hosting our rival. Tech has a lot riding in this game, and we can use this as a springboard for what happens from here with this program. This team isn’t checking out, and they’re going to come out ready to play the Michigan Tech Huskies.”