LUCKY THIRTEEN! Wildcats Pass Huge Road Test
This story was written by NMU Sports Information. Click the AUDIO button to hear RRN's interview with Wildcat Coach Matt Majkrzak, and click the VIDEO button for some Wildcat hightlights with RRN's Casey Ford.
BIG RAPIDS, Mich. - In a top-20 matchup and a clash of the top two teams in the Midwest, the Northern Michigan men's basketball team held on for a monumental 83-80 victory at Ferris State, marking 13 straight victories, tying a program record set in 1984-85.
Tested time and time again, NMU never relinquished the lead in the second half after holding a 10-point cushion at halftime. The Bulldogs closed it to a one possession game four separate times, but NMU came up with timely buckets, one after another. None perhaps bigger than the pair of triples from freshman Riley Brooks halfway through the second half to answer the Bulldogs closing it to a one score game twice.
It was an all-around effort to get this one done with all six scoring 'Cats reaching double figures. Max Weisbrod was once again sensational as he led the way with 21 points and six assists. Carson Smith added 17 and Dylan Kuehl registered 14, with each of them contributing four rebounds and five assists. Brooks notched 11 and forwards Sam Schultz and Sam Privet each hit 10. FSU's Dolapo Olayinka led all scorers with 22.
Both teams shot over 50%, as the Wildcats went 30-57 (52.6%) and Ferris went 30-59 (50.8%). Northern was outrebounded 34-26, trailed in second chance points 15-7, and lost the fastbreak points 15-9, but made up for it from beyond the arc, going 9-21 (42.9%) to an opposing 5-20 (25.0%) clip from the home team.
The win vaults the 'Cats to an unblemished 10-0 in conference play, with second place teams Ferris State and Lake Superior State now four games behind (6-4) with eight bouts remaining. NMU holds a 17-5 overall record.
One can say there must be something with being a visiting Max at Jim Wink Arena. In the last four contests on the road against Ferris, NMU's Max attack (Weisbrod and Bjorklund) have combined to average 25.8 points/game over six total games (three games each).
If fans weren't aware of the top-20 matchup heading into this one, they would get the idea right away as the offenses came out firing. It took only four minutes for both teams to reach double-figures and a minute later the game was even 14-14.
As the first half neared and crossed the halfway point, the Wildcats started to string together stops. A 7-0 run gave the Green and Gold an eight-point lead and a Dylan Kuehl triple stretched it to nine, 33-24, with 7:27 on the clock.
The Bulldogs quickly got back into it via the long ball, connecting on two to make it a one-possesion game with the clock ticking under five minutes to go in the half. As good teams do though, the Wildcats punched right back, scoring the next six to gain another nine-point lead, 41-32, with 2:54 before halftime.
It was imperative to not let the momentum swing in the final minutes before halftime and the 'Cats did just that, scoring the final points of the half from Sam Schultz at the free throw line to hold a 43-33 ten-point ledger. Weisbrod led the way for the 'Cats with 14 points with four others in Green and Gold scoring at least six.
Pushing the lead to 13 a couple of times in the early minutes of the second half, the Wildcats found its semi-comfortable lead erased pretty quickly, as the Bulldogs scored on back-to-back possessions by pulling down an offensive rebound and closed the gap to five at 55-50 with 14 minutes remaining.
The Bulldogs continued to chip away. An Ethan Erickson three made it a one-point game, but freshman Riley Brooks used the UNO reverse card to hit a three in response. With the clocking crossing the 10-minute mark soon after, Brooks connected yet again from beyond the arc to maintain the ledger. It was needed, as the Bulldogs established a rhythm offensively.
For a 12-minute stretch from 16 minutes to four minutes remaining in the game, the Wildcat lead wavered between two and seven points. The Bulldogs made it a one possession game three separate times, but NMU never relinquished the advantage. At the four-minute mark, Weisbrod stepped into a nothing-but-net triple to stretch the lead to nine, 79-70.
With just 64 seconds left, Ben Davidson attacked the rim and banked in a runner to once again make it a one-score game, 83-80. Following a Northern shot clock violation, NMU showcased stingy defense on the final possession to keep Ferris off the board and secure the win.
The Wildcats will look to remain unbeaten in the conference and will look to set the program's longest winning streak of all-time on Saturday, February 3rd as they visit Lake Superior State at 3 p.m.