HAMMOND, Ind. – Northern Michigan University's Men's Basketball Team featured five players reaching double figures as they defeated Purdue University Northwest 80-73 in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contest.
The Wildcats faced a 54-50 deficit with less than ten minutes remaining, but outscored the Pride 30-19 over the final nine minutes to capture the victory.
Leading the team was junior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell), who finished with 16 points and finished with team highs of six rebounds and seven assists. Sophomore Will Carius (Bettendorf, Iowa/Pleasant Valley) added 14 points and a team-best three steals.
Junior Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) chipped in with 12 points and sophomore Sam Taylor (Chicago, Ill./Thornton) contributed 11. Senior Jordan Perez (Greendale, Wis.) rounded out the double-digit scorers as he posted 10 points.
Sophomore Myles Howard (Chicago, Ill./Marian Catholic) aided the defensive effort with another two block performance.
The hosts jumped out to a 10-4 lead at the first timeout. The Wildcats came out of the quick break and chipped away at the Pride lead, eventually take a 16-15 lead when freshman Dolapo Olayinka (Chicago, Ill./Mather) made a layup.
Sophomore Marcus Matelski (Boyne Falls, Mich.) pushed the lead to as many as nine when he hit a three-pointer from Taylor with 7:41 to go in the first half. Purdue Northwest chipped away and eventually cut the NMU lead down to just two points with 1:37 remaining in the half. However, a Perez three-pointer followed by a Carius layup and two free throws by Echols pushed the lead back up to nine points, 42-33 with 48 seconds to go until the half. PNW finished the half with a free throw and layup and the Wildcats entered halftime up 42-36.
Back-to-back layups by Taylor to open the second half put NMU up 46-36 less than two minutes into the final frame. The Pride responded and gradually chipped away at the Wildcat lead, eventually capturing a 54-50 lead with just over ten minutes to go in the game.
After the media timeout, Carius made two free throws and Johnson made a jumper to tie the game with a little over nine minutes to go. Carius put NMU ahead on an old-fashioned three-pointer. After two straight layups by the Pride, PNW was ahead once again, 58-57 at the 7:30 mark.
Johnson then scored four straight points to put NMU back on top, and it was the an NMU lead the rest of the game. The teams exchanged baskets but NMU held a 65-64 lead at the final timeout. Out of the final media break, Carius made a jump shot, then Perez answered a PNW dunk and the Wildcats were ahead by four with 2:17 to go.
The hosts made a layup, but Perez and Taylor answered with a layup each, and then Echols sank two more free throws to push NMU back up 76-70 in the final minute. Echols made four more free throws to close out the game, giving the Wildcats the 80-73 victory.
With the win, NMU improved to 6-3, 3-0 in the GLIAC while PNW falls to 0-8, 0-3 in the league. The three-straight wins to open conference player is the best GLIAC start since the 2014-15 season when they started the league schedule 3-0 as well. The Wildcats look to continue their hot GLIAC start Saturday as they take on Grand Valley State University.