HOUGHTON, Mich. -- The Northern Michigan University Men's Basketball Team defeated University of Wisconsin Parkside 83-68 to open the 2017-18 season 2-0.
This year's start is the first time since the 2008-09 season that the Wildcats started a season 2-0. Junior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) led all scorers with 27 points, shooting 10 of 14 from the field, including three three-pointers. He also dished out three assists.
Sophomore Will Carius (Bettendorf, Iowa/Pleasant Valley) followed Saturday night's heroics with 17 points, going 8-11 from the free throw line and also grabbed seven rebounds. Junior Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) posted 14 points and led the team with eight rebounds.
At the first media timeout, the teams were tied 11-11, with Echols scoring eight. Out of the timeout, Johnson made a layup and senior Jordan Perez (Greendale, Wis.) added a three-pointer to give NMU a 16-11 lead. Echols would give the Wildcats their largest lead of the game at the 11-minute mark, knocking in another three-pointer to move the score to 22-14.
The Rangers then chipped away at the lead, eventually taking a 23-22 lead with 7:53 remaining in the first half. Parkside was able to pull ahead 29-26, but Johnson made a three-pointer to tie the game with just over 4 minutes to go in the half. The remainder of the opening half saw the teams battle to a NMU 37-35 advantage at the break.
Sophomore Sam Taylor (Chicago, Ill./Thornton) opened the second half with a quick layup. After Carius made a layup to answer a Rangers layup, Echols outscored Parkside 6-2, moving the lead up to 46-40.
NMU eventually pulled ahead by another eight-point margin, but the Rangers chipped away before the first media timeout of the half, putting the score 52-47.
The teams traded baskets, with Parkside coming within two points, but the Wildcats pulled back ahead 63-55 at the second media timeout.
Once again, the teams exchanged baskets until two Carius free throws gave NMU their first double-digit lead of the game, 72-62, with 5:41 remaining in the game.
The lead gradually climbed to 16 points as the Wildcats defense allowed just five points the remainder of the game, winning 83-68.
As a team, NMU finished 56 percent from the floor, including 61 percent in the second half. They also outrebounded the Rangers, holding a 39-26 edge on the boards. At the free throw line, NMU finished with 22 attempts and allowed just 13 attempts for Parkside.
Now 2-0 on the season, the Wildcats will hit the road once again next weekend, facing Minnesota State University Moorhead Friday night and Southwest Minnesota State University Saturday.