Men’s basketball team host top GLIAC opponent

Ray Bressette

After a rough road trip last weekend, the ’Cats have a chance for home redemption this weekend when they host the GLIAC’s leading (8-2) Saginaw Valley Cardinals at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21, followed by the (7-3) Hillsdale College Chargers at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23.

While the Cardinals currently sit atop the conference, their lead doesn’t have room for comfort, as six teams are tied for second place at 7-3, one game behind Saginaw Valley.re1-MBball2_ET

NMU head coach Bill Sall said it’s an unorthodox situation for the season standings.

“It’s one of those years where you look at all the teams and they’re dominated by juniors and seniors who have been around the block,” Sall said. “In years past, we might have had one good team in the conference, but this year there’s more teams ranked than we’ve ever had, and they’re all in our division.”

SVSU is offensively led by a trio of double-digit scorers in junior forward C.J. Turnage, senior guard Damon Bozeman and junior guard Garrett Hall.

The Cardinals are averaging 83.5 points per game, the GLIAC’s second leading, and 39.9 rebounds per game.

“They have four guys that can put up 20 points on any night,” Sall said. “They have good athleticism, but their strength is outstanding. They bully their opponents in the right way and physically dominate everyone.

“Hopefully we learned against them last year that we can’t get into that situation and get bullied, and we’re going to have to outwork them.”

After the Cardinals on Thursday, the ’Cats will prepare for the GLIAC’s leading scorer, senior forward Kyle Cooper, and his Chargers.

Hillsdale is coming off just their third conference loss of the season last week when Northwood took an 82-80 win on Saturday, Jan. 16 in Midland, Mich.

All three of the Chargers’ losses have come on the road, as they hold a 3-3 record when they leave their home court.

As for the ’Cats, they currently sit 14th in the conference, four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot.

Sophomore guard Jordan Perez and freshman guard Naba Echols are each averaging 12 points per game.

Junior guard Marcus Hall sank 19 points last weekend in a 96-79 loss to the Ferris State Bulldogs on Saturday, Jan. 16.

Sall said despite tough losses this season, he remains optimistic in his team’s building process.

“We’re missing that little key piece yet,” Sall said. “I believe in what our team is. I know we can get over the hump. Sometimes you have to get to the brink of tough situations to get over it, and I believe we’re heading in the right direction.”