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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Men’s basketball loses back-and-forth rivalry battle with Michigan Tech

NOT ENOUGH OFFENSE—A great defensive effort was not enough for the NMU Men’s Basketball team, as its struggled offense fell flat in a 61-52 home loss to Michigan Tech. Travis Nelson/NW

It was a tooth and nail game all night long between the NMU Men’s Basketball team and its arch-rival Michigan Tech, but the better offense prevailed as the Huskies finished the game on an 8-0 run for the 61-52 win on Tuesday night, Jan. 26.

The Wildcats’ (3-4) offense has hit a wall, only averaging 58.3 points per game over the past four games. NMU is fortunately 2-2 in those games due its stellar defense, but being good on that end of the floor hasn’t been enough. Missing a lot of time due to COVID-19 could be the reason why NMU has struggled offensively, but every other team has had the same disadvantages, Head Coach Matt Majkrzak said in his Zoom postgame press conference. He added that it seems like his guys aren’t shooting the ball at the clip that they need to, and that the coaching staff isn’t doing a good enough job of getting them open shots.

“No matter how tough and gritty you are, you still have to score in basketball, and I think that’s been the part that’s been the hardest adjusting to,” Majkrzak said. “You can do everything right within the game but if you’re not practicing better and you’re not spending time on getting up shots, you have trouble scoring the ball in-game settings.”

The ‘Cats came out doing everything right in the game, jumping out to a 10-2 lead within the first four minutes of the game. Michigan Tech’s (5-1) firepower pushed the Huskies out on an 11-2 run to take a 13-12 lead. From the 12:00 minute mark in the first half to the final minute of the game, neither team could pull away. NMU held a 29-26 halftime lead and had as much as a four-point lead in the second half. The game was tied at 51-51 with five minutes left, and the Huskies held a 53-52 advantage with under three minutes remaining. Even with NMU’s remarkable defensive effort cracking down on Tech’s offense, the Huskies finished strong and scored the game’s final eight points for the nine-point win.

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“I thought we played our hearts out. Since I’ve been here we’ve had some really good wins, at Tech, at Grand Valley, at Ferris twice now. I thought as far as wanting it and effort and just competing, that was as good and as proud of the group as I’ve ever been,” Majkrzak said. “I think that’s why it stung so much afterward, cause we didn’t play very well and offensively; we aren’t playing very well.”

The Huskies were led by its big trio of seniors guard Dawson Bilski and forward Trent Bell and junior guard Owen White. White led MTU with 18 points and three made 3-pointers. Bell chipped in with 15 points and eight rebounds and Bilski finished with 13 points. Junior guard Carter Johnston added a season-high 10 points for the Huskies, rounding out a balanced scoring attack for Michigan Tech.

NMU’s offense hasn’t been playing as well, but its major bright spot is junior forward Dolapo Olayinka, who finished with a game-high 20 points and nine rebounds. Olayinka has clearly been the Wildcat’s best player, and it’s been nice to see his hard work in practice and games be rewarded, Majkrzak said. The rest of the team only combined for 32 points, not having junior guard Max Bjorklund due to injury hurts, but having nobody else near Olayinka’s production is a steep mountain to climb. It all starts with working hard, and the other guys can look no further than Olayinka on to improve.

“Dolapo’s worked harder than everyone and I don’t feel bad saying that. He’s the hardest working kid on our team, he’s maybe the hardest working kid I’ve ever been around,” Majkrzak said. “I think the blueprint on how to turn yourself into a good player is sitting in our locker room every day.”

This doesn’t mean the rest of the team isn’t capable, the Wildcats have needed that offensive production to get their three wins. The emergence of freshman guard Carson Smith, whose eight points matched sophomore guard Noah Parcher for second-most on the team against Michigan Tech, is something that didn’t go unnoticed.

“[Smith] was one of the guys that during the quarantine, he was working every day and when there was time off, it seemed like Carson really took advantage of it. So even though he’s a freshman, he was getting in more work and really accelerating his growth versus everyone else, and I think that hard work has definitely shown.”

 “I thought he was maybe the second biggest bright spot after Dolapo, and for a freshman against Tech, who’s very hard to play against with what they do offensively, for a freshman to be able to handle the complicated offense they run, to handle it as well as he did defensively. I thought it was really, really impressive and it’s a great sign for things to come in his future,” Majkrzak said.

The Wildcats went 20-52 from the field at 38.5% and shot a mere 22.2% from the 3-point line at 4-18. The way their shooting woes could change is getting game speed shots up at practice, Majkrzak said. Having harder and better practices moving forward was an emphasis for Majkrzak over the course of his press conference, and it’s the hope that his team won’t waste any more great efforts with a bad shooting night.

“I think it’s got to be every drill we do in practice, every film session we have, we got to treat it with that same intensity and effort that we treat the games with. And then I think on top of that, we need to get a lot of shots up,” Majkrzak said. “We’re home for the next four games, we’ll be in the same gym. It’s just point blank, it’s not good enough to shoot the percentages that we’ve been shooting, especially at home.” 

Majkrzak repeatedly talked about how basketball games aren’t won on the court, they’re won with practice. The feeling of having a sour taste of a tough loss, he doesn’t want his team to forget it anytime soon.

“Remember it, I want them to remember it for the rest of the year, I want them to remember it next summer, I want them to remember everything about it because I think it was a great lesson about how you can’t win basketball games solely in the game,” Majkrzak said. “Because I thought in the game, everybody gave me everything they had, and they gave each other everything they had. And we lost this game outside of the actual game, this is one that I hope we can keep referencing for the rest of the year as it’s not enough to play as hard as you can on game night.”

The Wildcats have one day off before two days of practice to prepare for when the Lake Superior State Lakers come to Marquette this weekend. 

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