DULUTH, Minn. – Four players reached 15 points for the Northern Michigan University Men's Basketball Team, but the Wildcats fell to University of Minnesota Duluth 87-82 in the team's final game of 2017.
Junior Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) lead the team with 18 points. Junior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) and sophomore Will Carius (Bettendorf, Iowa/Pleasant Valley) both added 16 points. Freshman Dolapo Olayinka (Chicago, Ill./Mather) chipped in with 15 points.
Carius also led the team with eight rebounds. Olayinka posted two blocks while Marcus Matelski (Boyne Falls, Mich.) notched three steals. Echols also led the team with three assists.
Senior Eddie Tornes (Muskegon, Mich./Cumberland C.C.) hit a three-pointer to give NMU the first score of the game. The hosts responded and took a 14-7 lead over the next five minutes. Carius ended the UMD rally with a layup and free throw, followed by a layup by Johnson to make it 14-12.
The Bulldogs pulled back ahead 20-14, but a layup by Echols and a three-point play by Olayinka pulled NMU within two, 21-19. Olayinka managed to tie the game at 25-25 by hitting another layup with 9:15 to go in the half.
Olayinka give the Wildcats back the lead with a layup at the 7:48 mark, putting NMU ahead 29-28. The teams continued to trade baskets the remainder of the half, with the largest lead being a 37-35 NMU advantage, until the first half ended in a 39-39 tie.
To open the second half, Johnson tied the score at 41-41 early on, but Echols followed with a three-point play, and a jumper by senior Jordan Perez (Greendale, Wis.) gave the Wildcats a 46-41 lead. However, the hosts responded and jumped out 53-48 with 13:57 remaining.
Echols then scored five-straight points for the Wildcats to get the team within 54-53. NMU took back the lead, 60-57, with 10:43 to go in the game after Carius hit a three. Sophomore Sam Taylor (Chicago, Ill./Thornton) and Carius expanded the lead by each sinking a free throw, making it 62-57.
UMD fought back and captured a 67-65 lead with just under seven minutes to play. They managed to move ahead by five, 72-67 with 4:55 to go. Alec Fruin (Beloit, Wis./Turner) then hit two free throws, and Taylor made a layup to reduce the margin to just 72-71, but it would be the closest the Wildcats would get as the Bulldogs managed to sink free throws in the final minutes to take the 87-82 victory.
Despite the defeat, the Wildcats enter the break at 8-4 on the season, and have already tied last season's win total. Their 5-0 start in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play is also their best start in over 20 years. NMU will return to action on January 4 to take on Tiffin University in the Berry Events Center as the team continues GLIAC competition.