ASHLAND, Ohio – Northern Michigan University's Men's Basketball team hit ten three-pointers in the first half and ended the half on a 34-12 run, but it wasn't enough as the Wildcats fell 83-72 in overtime to Ashland University in the quarterfinals of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.
Junior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) led NMU with 28 points and six assists. He also recorded his first block of the season. Junior Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) chipped in with 15 points and senior Jordan Perez (Greendale, Wis.) added 11 with six rebounds.
The Eagles jumped out early to an 11-2 lead, with Perez giving NMU their first bucket of the game. Echols made a layup, then sophomore Will Carius (Bettendorf, Iowa/Pleasant Valley) answered an AU bucket with a three-pointer. Perez then followed another Ashland basket with another three to make it 15-10 ten minutes into the game.
The hosts added two free throws before sophomore Sam Taylor (Chicago, Ill./Thornton) converted a three-point play to make it 17-13. AU converted their own three-point play but Echols responded by sinking two free throws and Perez hit another three to get the deficit down to just 20-18 with eight minutes to go in the half. He followed it with another triple to give the Wildcats a 21-20 lead.
Johnson followed with a layup and Echols extended the lead with his first three of the game. Ashland inched closer with two free throws, but Echols knocked in his second three of the half and made the score 29-22 with 5:29 left before the half. After two more AU free throws, Echols answered with a layup and free throw, then Perez answered an Eagle three-pointer with another three. Johnson and Echols followed with their own threes. Echols ended the half with his fourth three-pointer of the half, giving NMU a 44-27 lead.
The hot shooting continued early into the second half as Carius hit a three, then sophomore Myles Howard (Chicago, Ill./Marian Catholic) dunked to move NMU ahead 22 points, 49-27. The hosts responded with eight points before Echols sank two free throws, and junior Kenton Mack (Algonquin, Ill.) made one to make the NMU lead 52-35 with 15:42 left.
AU answered with four points before junior Max Prendergast (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids West Catholic/Grand Rapids CC) made a layup. Five points for the Eagles were scored before Johnson made it 56-44 with 11:36 to go. This time Ashland went on a nine-point run before Echols hit a jumper. Johnson then hit another NMU three-pointer and the score was 61-53 with 7:37 on the clock. Over the next two minutes, the Eagles chipped away and made the score 61-60 with 5:30 left to play.
Johnson stopped the AU run with a layup, but the hosts moved to within 63-62 with three minutes to play. The Eagles then took a 64-63 lead at the 1:21 mark after hitting two free throws. Echols gave NMU back the lead, 65-64 when he sank two free throws on the next possession. The Wildcats were then called for a foul with six seconds remaining to send AU to the free throw line, where they made one and tied the game. NMU's three-pointer at the basket missed and the game went into overtime.
Ashland began the overtime period with seven straight points. Echols made two free throws, and then traded one with the Eagles, but AU scored six more points before Taylor made two free throws. The Eagles added two more from the charity stripe, then Taylor made a jumper. The hosts ended the game with two more free throws to get the 83-72 victory.
NMU finishes the year at 15-13 on the season and 12-8 in the GLIAC while Ashland improved to 20-9 overall and 12-8 in the league. The fifteen wins are the most in a season for NMU since the 2006-07 season and the first winning season since that year. It was also their first appearance in the GLIAC Tournament since 2007.