ALLENDALE, Mich. – The Men's Basketball Team for Northern Michigan University defeated Grand Valley State University 71-68 in overtime for their fourth-straight Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory. The 4-0 start is the best start to GLIAC play for NMU since the 2005-06 season.
Junior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) led the way with 21 points, including going 11 of 12 from the free throw line which is his best outing this season from the charity stripe. Junior Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) added 14 points, three blocks and a career-high 13 rebounds. Sophomore Will Carius (Bettendorf, Iowa/Pleasant Valley) chipped in with 13 points and seven rebounds. Senior Eddie Tornes (Muskegon, Mich./Cumberland C.C.) posted 10 points and two blocks.
Carius found Echols for a three-pointer to give NMU an early 3-2 lead, but the Lakers answered by quickly jumping out 6-3. After a Johnson layup, Echols returned the favor for a Carius three-pointer and NMU was again ahead 8-6.
After a three-point play by GVSU, freshman Dolapo Olayinka (Chicago, Ill./Mather) scored, followed by Johnson. The Lakers made it a 12-11 Wildcat lead with a layup, but Taylor knocked in a jumper which Tornes followed with a three-pointer and NMU was ahead 17-11 with 10:20 to go in the first half.
GVSU tied the score, but Tornes made a layup and then Carius added a free throw and an old-fashioned three-pointer to put NMU back ahead 23-17 with five minutes left until the half. The Wildcats soon got the lead back, 26-20, after Johnson made a layup and free throw but GVSU answered. The Lakers ended the half on a 9-1 run and took a 29-28 lead into the break.
Carius answered a three-pointer by the hosts, but the Lakers eventually got ahead 41-30 with 12:49 left in regulation. Perez ended the GVSU rally by hitting back-to-back three-pointers and NMU was down just 41-36 less than a minute later.
The Lakers jumped back up 45-38 and managed to maintain their lead for the next eight minutes, but NMU slowly chipped away. After a Taylor three-pointer put the NMU deficit to 55-50, Echols made a layup and free throw, and then hit two more free throws on the next possession to tie the game at 55-55 with 3:34 to go in the second half.
GVSU knocked in a bucket to gain back the lead, but then fouled Echols on a three-pointer. Echols sank all three and the Wildcats had a lead. The Lakers responded with two layups and took back the lead, going ahead 61-58 with just over one minute remaining. Echols then hit two free throws to narrow the gap, and then tied the score at 63-63 when he answered two GVSU free throws with a three-pointer from Johnson, with 43 seconds to go.
Both teams missed their last chance shot, forcing the first overtime game of the season for the men's team. Echols opened the OT period with a layup, then Taylor found Johnson for another Wildcat three-pointer and NMU was ahead 68-63 with 3:13 left in the game.
GVSU pulled within three, but Echols sank three more free throws to seal the 71-68 victory.
NMU improved to 7-3 on the season and are tied for first place in the GLIAC at 4-0. Grand Valley State fell to 3-6, 0-4 in the league. The Wildcats will look to continue their hot start next Sunday when they host rival Michigan Technological University in the Berry Events Center.