BACK ON TRACK: 'Cats Pull Away To Beat Rangers

This story was written by NMU Sports Information. Click the AUDIO button to hear RRN's Casey Ford  interview Wildcat Coach Matt Majkrzak.

 Coming off of a loss that ended a program-tying 13-game winning streak, the Northern Michigan men's basketball team got right back in the win column on Thursday night, defeating the Parkside Rangers 81-67 at the Berry. 

Despite a tightly contested game for the large majority of play, the Wildcats took the lead just over halfway through the first half and never looked back. The game was won in a six-minute stretch in the second half from nine minutes to three, when the 'Cats went on a 17-4 run so stretch a four-point lead to a comfortable 17-point cushion. 

It was a three-headed attack for the Green and Gold, as Dylan Kuehl and Max Weisbrod each scored 17 points while Carson Smith was right behind with 15. Sam Schultz scored nine while also adding six boards and six assists. 

The sides shot identical from beyond the arc, 11-23 (47.8%). A look across the box score will see the difference was made in turnovers in which Parkside committed 10 to just four from the Wildcats, and points in the paint, where NMU dominated to a tune of 40-22. 

The No. 16 Wildcats improved to 11-1 in conference play with the win and 18-6 overall. The Rangers fell to 11-11 overall and 6-6 in the GLIAC. 

The night started with Riley Brooks converting on a drive to the hoop to kick off a high-scoring first half. Dylan Kuehl would score the next seven for the 'Cats including a slam and a triple, but the Rangers had a counter each time the Wildcats put points on the board. 

In just the first 11 minutes, the game saw 10 lead changes and four ties, with neither team going ahead by more than four points. Once the game carried past 10 minutes of play, Jackson Dudek came off the bench for six straight; a triple followed by an old-fashioned three-point play. That gave NMU the lead back 24=22 with just under nine minutes left in the first half. 

Neither team was able to score on more than two trips down the floor without getting an answer from the other on the opposite end of the floor. The largest unanswered run of the first half was just 5-0, done twice by each team. 

Just like Kuehl started the game and Dudek followed, another forward Sam Privet ended the half strong for the Green and Gold. He hit back-to-back threes with under five minutes to play go give NMU its largest lead at 37-32. The Rangers would go on to score eight of the final 11 of the half, resulting in a 43-42 lead for the Wildcats at the break. The three-point line was the go-to play in the first 20, as NMU was 8-16 (50%) while Parkside was an even hotter 6-10 (60%). 

After a cold offensive start in the second half that saw just eight points to each side in the first five minutes, the Wildcats put together the largest spurt of the night, scoring seven straight, to lead 58-50 with a dozen minutes left on the clock.

Just as the Rangers closed it back to four, Sam Schultz drove to the hoop and got the and-one to increase the Cats' lead to 65-58 with 9:19 left in the game. A Carson Smith layup followed, triggering a UWP timeout with 8:42 to play and the Wildcats in front 67-58.

Alas with 7:12 to play, Schultz converted on back-to-back putbacks to put the Cats' up double figures at 71-60. Those layups, along with threes from Weisbrod and Brooks,  were part of a 17-4 Northern run over six minutes that ballooned the lead to 79-62 for the home squad with three minutes and change left. 

From there the speed was set to cruise control, as the Wildcats emerged victorious, 81-67. 

The Wildcats return to the Berry on Saturday as they'll play host to the Purdue Northwest Pride. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.

LISTEN: Matt Majkrzak post-game comments