ERIE, Pa. – Junior Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) tipped in a layup with nine seconds to go to give Northern Michigan University's Men's Basketball Team a 71-69 victory over the College of Saint Rose in the first game of the Gary Miller Classic, hosted by Gannon University.
The Wildcats will now take on the winner of Gannon and West Virginia Wesleyan College at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the championship game.
Johnson led the Wildcats with 18 points and tied for the team's lead with three assists. Sophomore Will Carius (Bettendorf, Iowa/Pleasant Valley) notched a double-double, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He also dished out three assists. Junior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) chipped in with 14 points and tallied three steals.
Senior Eddie Tornes (Muskegon, Mich./Cumberland CC) tied Johnson and Carius with three assists. Sophomore Myles Howard (Chicago, Ill. /Marian Catholic) tied a career-high with five blocked shots, including one to seal the win.
NMU jumped out to an early 9-0 lead and held a 9-2 advantage at the first media timeout. The Golden Knights pulled within three, 13-10, but Carius hit two three-pointers around a Saint Rose layup to put the Wildcats back up 19-12. Another three, this time by Echols pushed NMU back up 22-12 with 8:35 to go in the half.
The teams continued to trade baskets for the next five minutes, heading into the final media timeout seeing a 31-24 Wildcat lead. Saint Rose came out of the timeout and chipped away at the NMU advantage, eventually capturing a 34-32 lead as the team's entered halftime.
To start the second half, NMU tied the game with two free throws by Carius. The Golden Knights responded with a three-pointer and jumper to take a 39-34 lead. Sophomore Sam Taylor (Chicago, Ill./Thornton) responded with two free throws, which Johnson followed with a three-pointer to tie the game 39-39 for the games third tie.
With the game tied, Saint Rose scored on their next two possessions, but a Howard dunk gave the Golden Knights just a 43-41 lead with 14:53 to go at the media timeout.
Johnson came out of the timeout with another three-pointer, and freshman Dolapo Olayinka (Chicago, Ill./Mather) made a layup to take a 46-43 lead. A three-pointer by Saint Rose tied the game for the fourth time. After a fifth tie at 48-48, Olayinka and Johnson hit three-straight layups to put NMU ahead 54-48.
Saint Rose pulled within 59-58 with 6:19 to go in the half, but the Wildcats would respond and pushed out to a 65-58 lead with 3:28 to go after an Echols jump shot. The Golden Knights answered with a three-pointer, but Echols hit two free throws to go back up 67-61 with 2:46 remaining.
A three-pointer by St. Rose dropped the NMU lead to 67-64, and Echols answered with a layup to put the Wildcats back up five. The Golden Knights responded with a layup of their own and called timeout, with NMU ahead 69-66 with 1:02 to go in the game.
After an NMU turnover, St. Rose tied the game 69-69 with 41 seconds left. On the ensuing Wildcats possession, Echols missed a jumper, but NMU retained possession. Carius attempted a three with 22 seconds to go that bounced out to Echols. With 12 seconds to go, Echols would miss a jump shot, but Johnson followed the shot and completed a tip-in layup with nine seconds to go, putting NMU ahead 71-69.
Howard then sealed the NMU victory by blocking the Saint Rose buzzer-beating three.
With the victory, the Wildcats improve to 3-2 on the season while the Golden Knights fall to 5-2. NMU will return Saturday to take on the winner of Gannon and West Virginia Wesleyan for the Gary Miller Classic Championship Game.