Men’s Basketball changes the outlook of their season

Travis+Nelson%2FNW

Travis Nelson/NW

Travis Nelson

Things weren’t looking good for the NMU Men’s Basketball after a 70-60 home loss to Lake Superior State on Jan. 30. Northern had just lost its third straight game and averaged 52.3 points per game offensively. 

NMU came out the next day on Jan. 31 with a 56-point explosion in the first half in LSSU, and dominated start to finish for a 91-70 win. The Wildcats then swept Northwood at home this past weekend and won the second game with a 55-point second half. An offensively-challenged team turned the corner and turned the entire season around. Now sitting at 6-5, it’s worth wondering how the ‘Cats became a completely different team on the offensive end? Simply put, they played like a team that had nothing to lose.

“I think we came out of the first Lake State game and that was probably as low as any team I’ve ever been around as far as we just didn’t feel very good,” Head Coach Matt Majkrzak said. “Everything this year that’s happened, I think we were kind of down, and I thought that Sunday we went into it with a little bit more like, ‘well what do we have to lose? We’re not playing very well, we can’t shoot worse.’”

The ‘Cats went in feeling they couldn’t shoot any worse, but in the first half of the Lake State game, they probably couldn’t have shot any better at a 51.6% clip. What was a “fake confidence” going into that game, turned into real confidence for the team when shots began to fall, Majkrzak said.

“We focused on getting some better quality shots, and I do think once they started going in, that all of a sudden gave us confidence,” Majkrzak said. “You don’t want it to work that way, but it felt like it kind of worked that way where once we saw we were doing it in the games. We had a great week of practice where the ball was going in and it seemed like heading into this weekend, our confidence was radically different.”

The confidence was clearly there this past weekend when NMU picked up its first sweep of the year. It’s rare to see a series of two games back-to-back days where neither game was in doubt in the final 10 minutes of both, and that’s what the Wildcats accomplished, Majkrzak said. He felt Saturday’s 84-72 win was very well played, and that Sunday’s 74-63 victory was more of a gritty, tough game. Even though Northern proved that they can win in a variety of ways, there are still improvements to be made.

“I think if you have two double-digit wins, I think you have to be happy about it,” Majkrzak said. “Obviously there’s a lot of things we have to clean up, a lot of things we have to get better at, but in terms of kind of the big picture stuff, I think you have to be really happy when you get wins.”

It would’ve been fair to say that NMU was a defensive team two weeks ago, but now the offense is there. The Wildcats aren’t pure offense or defense, but are a pretty balanced group, Majkrzak said. Now with a trip against GLIAC title favorites Grand Valley State on the horizon, it’s going to take balance to get a pair of wins. But first, a great week of practice is emphasized by Majkrzak to ensure that momentum stays on the ‘Cats’ side.

“I think we’re playing pretty well. I just want another great week of practice, we haven’t had enough practices, so right now it really comes down to let’s have an unbelievable practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and kind of keep the momentum rolling,” Majkrzak said. “When you’ve won three in a row and you’re going to play one of the best teams, have some fun with it, but also make sure we’re going there to get a win.” 

The Wildcats might’ve saved their season with two wins over Northwood, but lofty goals are still obtainable with a sweep of GVSU. NMU takes on the Lakers this weekend in Allendale on Feb. 12-13.