Wildcat shooters can’t complete comeback bid

Senior+guard+Jordan+Perez+protects+the+basket+in+a+previous+home+game+this+season.+The+Wildcats+will+play+home+at+the+Berry+Events+Center+Thursday+after+playing+their+last+five+games+on+the+road.%0APhoto+by%3A+Lindsey+Eaton

Senior guard Jordan Perez protects the basket in a previous home game this season. The Wildcats will play home at the Berry Events Center Thursday after playing their last five games on the road. Photo by: Lindsey Eaton

Levi Erkkila

The Northern Michigan Men’s Basketball team traveled to Houghton, Michigan, Sunday for a conference battle with rival Michigan Tech University, where the Wildcats lost 77-66.

Tech jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Junior guard Naba Echols hit a three-pointer three minutes in, making it 4-3 but was quickly countered with five straight MTU points. Junior forward Isaiah Johnson put the next four points on the board, followed by senior guard Jordan Perez’s three ball. The 10-9 NMU lead vanished when Michigan Tech had a run of seven, taking the lead 16-10. The Wildcats only put two points on the scoreboard before Tech went on an 11-0 run. The teams traded baskets until the first half buzzer sounded with the score 32-23 as the teams regrouped in the locker room.

The Wildcats started slow and didn’t treat it as a rivalry game. Tech was first to the floor along with winning all the 50/50 balls.

“That was disappointing,” head coach Bill Sall commented on the first half. “It was fortunate we were only down nine points at half.”

The second half opened with a three-pointer from sophomore guard Sam Taylor. MTU answered right back shortly after. Tech then outscored Northern 9-5 making it a 43-34 game at the first media timeout.

At the 10:47 mark the deficit was 10 for the ’Cats, 50-40. NMU went on a quick eight-point run pulling the score within two. Michigan Tech responded with a basket which was promptly answered by a Johnson three. The gap between the two squads was only one until an MTU jumper made it three. Once again Johnson hit a big three ball, his fourth of the game, to tie the score 54-54 with 6:20 left on the clock.

Echols responded for the cats, who scored on three quick jumpers after MTU jumped out to an eight-point lead, cutting NMU’s deficit to 62-60.

Echols answered three MTU free throws with a layup to make it 65-62 with 2:12 to play. On the next possession, again he scored following two Husky points.

Tech pulled ahead by seven, 71-64. Perez sank two free throws making the score 71-66 with 51 seconds remaining. That’s as close as the Wildcats would get to Michigan Tech who hit six-straight free throws down the stretch to capture the 77-66 victory.

The Wildcats were led by Johnson, who scored 18 points. Echols added 16 points and five assists, scoring 10 straight NMU points in the second half. Sophomore forward Will Carius chipped in with 11 points.

Kyle Monroe led Michigan Tech with 31 points.

NMU finished a brutal January schedule that saw the Wildcats play nearly every game on the road.

Northern Michigan dropped their record to 11-8 on the season and 8-4 in GLIAC play, which places them in third place in northern conference standings and sixth place overall. NMU could still host a playoff game.

“We’ve got 6 of 8 at home, so we are still in a position area in where we want to be,” said Sall, who likes the Wildcats chances of improving their record in the upcoming weeks.

The Wildcats return home to host Purdue University Northwest Thursday night and Grand Valley State University Saturday.

Sall likes the favorable schedule matchups in the coming days, with NMU having statement home games against Ferris State and Lake Superior State, two teams ahead of them in the GLIAC. They currently trail Ferris State by two games.