MARQUETTE, Mich. -- Northern Michigan University Men's Basketball returned to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament and reached the GLIAC Semifinals in a season that established the Wildcats are competing for GLIAC Championships.
The season started with their best start since the 1984-85 season as they began the year 5-0 following an 80-68 victory over Hillsdale College and ran out to an 8-1 start. In conference play, the Wildcats gave regular season champion Davenport University their biggest loss of the season, defeating the Panthers 77-63. They also swept Michigan Technological University for the first time since 2008-09.
After reaching the GLIAC Quarterfinals for the second straight season, NMU defeated the defending league and NCAA Champions, Ferris State University 89-73 to reach their first GLIAC Semifinals since 2006-07.
Contributing to the team's success was their ability to control the ball. The Wildcats averaged just 9.1 turnovers per game to finish fourth in the nation and led the GLIAC.
The team was lead by seniors Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) and Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn.) who led the GLIAC in scoring. Johnson paced the league with 20.6 points a game while Echols was right behind with 19.5. The duo was also ranked top two among the conference in free throws made and attemps and earned multiple GLIAC Player of the Week awards on their way to earning First Team All-GLIAC honors for the second straight time. Johnson went on earn National Association of Basketball Coaches 2019 NABC Coaches' Division II All-Midwest District Second Team and Division II Conference Commissioners Association Men's Basketball All-Midwest Region Team recognition.
Also aiding the team were juniors Myles Howard (Chicago, Ill.) and Sam Taylor (Chicago, Ill.). Howard paced the league with 2.9 blocks per game and tallied 77 blocks for the season to finsh sixth nationally in both. Taylor led the team with 1.7 steals and was often matched up against the opponents point guard, forcing the other team into difficult possessions because of his pressure. The pair were named to the All-GLIAC Defensive Team once again as well. Junior Marcus Matelski (Boyne Falls, Mich.) gave the team added offensive firepower off the bench.
Sophomore Alec Fruin (Beloit, Wis.) and redshirt freshman Troy Summers (Grayling, Mich.) came on at the end of the year. Fruin scored a career-high 17 points at Purdue University Northwest in February and started the two GLIAC Tournament games, while Summers got his first career start in January and finished the year with double-figures in six of the final 11 games. Summers recorded his first career double-double at Purdue Northwest with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The Wildcats now turn their attention to the 2019-20 season and while they must look to replace over 40 points a game, this core group of returners will look to finish the trek the talented senior class started, a GLIAC Championship and NCAA Tournament berth.