Second-place battle looming for Wildcats

Second-place+battle+looming+for+Wildcats

Nate Bellville

The Northern Michigan Men’s Basketball team split their last road trip of the season, winning 80-72 over the Northwood University Timberwolves last Thursday, and losing 92-66 to the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals (SVSU) Saturday night. With Thursday night’s victory, the Wildcats have clinched a home playoff spot in the GLIAC basketball tournament for the first time in over a decade.

After securing a spot in this year’s playoffs, head coach Bill Sall said the team has another goal in mind.

“It’s been a while for us to be in the tournament, but our goal at the start was to host a [playoff] game here,” Sall said.

Sophomore guard Sam Taylor said the team fought hard to earn their way in.

“For some reason in the last four games, we’ve been digging ourselves [into] a hole. But we always find a way to get out of it,” Taylor said.

Northwood began Thursday’s game with a 10-2 run, before a three-pointer by junior guard Naba Echols showed some life in the Wildcats. Both teams traded baskets for the next 10 minutes until an 8-0 Timberwolves run made it to 32-24. Senior guard Jordan Perez’s three-point shot took the Wildcats into the half down by seven.

The Timberwolves pulled out to a 10 point lead early in the second half. NMU climbed back within six as Perez went on a hot-scoring streak as he scored from a layup, then scored again after a steal to tie the game at 50. Sophomore guard Marcus Matelski’s three gave NMU their first lead of the game. The Wildcats ended the game on a 15-4 run, icing the game at 80-72, officially clinching a playoff spot.

Perez and sophomore forward Will Carius both led the team with 22 points each. The 22 points were a season-high for Perez, and Carius’s second in four games.

NMU junior guard/forward Isaiah Johnson scored to start the Saginaw Valley game, but the Cardinals swung back with a 14-0 run to give SVSU a 20-8 lead. The Cardinals never looked back, as they answered a Perez three with a 11-0 run. Johnson scored seven more points, but the Cardinals went into the half up 45-28.

Saginaw Valley State hit the half-century mark early in the second half with a three by freshman guard D.J. Hoskins, responding to a seven-point run from NMU’s Johnson and Taylor. NMU would close the gap to 14, but SVSU turned on the gas late in the game, defeating Northern Michigan 92-66.

Johnson led NMU with 27 points, while Carius followed up with 12 points.

Matelski said that they should’ve been able to sweep their previous opponents.

“The Northwood game was a good win, but in Saginaw we were slow and just didn’t recover. They came out with a lot of energy and we just were out played in every way,” Matelski said. “I mean we got the split, but we wish were 2-0.”

NMU is back home for two crucial conference matchups this weekend as they host the Lake Superior State University Lakers (LSSU) Thursday night and the Ferris State University Bulldogs Saturday.

The Wildcats are a game behind LSSU for second place, while Ferris leads the region and are third-ranked nationally. Sall said that both matchups will be tough.

“Lake Superior State has had our number through the time I’ve been here. But for Ferris, we matchup with them pretty well. Our last game with them was a whale of a game,” Sall said.

“It gets to the point where we have to stop being the kid that always gives up lunch money and make a stand. That’s the message getting across here the last couple days,” Sall added.
However, Taylor thinks the team can get back-to-back upsets and shake up the standings.

“We’ve got a lot of potential and we should be way higher,” Taylor said. “In my opinion, we should be number one.”