MARQUETTE - The Northern Michigan University men's basketball team was unable to bounce back from a weak start in a 78-68 loss to Lewis University on Sunday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
The Flyers' lead spanned from five to 21 points throughout the game as NMU fell to 1-3 overall this season.
Between the 29 fouls called on NMU, plus with a 52-percent free throw percentage, the Wildcats could not close the gap.
Northern Michigan University freshman Dorrell Foster (15) makes a basket as Lewis University junior Mantas Dubauskas (33) and sophomore Brad Foster (42) defend during the first half Sunday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"We came out flat," head coach Bill Sall said. "We got down and had to continue to work twice as hard to get back into the game."
Despite the slow start, Sall said the 'Cats began to click at around the 12-minute mark, sticking with the Flyers and playing at a higher level throughout the rest of the game.
The Wildcats return only three players from last year and although the nerves have begun to settle, Sall said the experience and chemistry will have to build over time.
"We did some good things," Sall said. "You learn a lot by playing games and watching the film of how you play and what you do."
Northern out-rebounded the Flyers 30-28, and Sall said the team improved in being more proactive on the offensive glass.
Sophomore Terry Nash - one of the three returnees - led the team with 18 points against Lewis. He's been at NMU for three years, but is hardly a veteran. Nash redshirted his freshmen year and was injured most of last season.
"Terry has been great," Sall said. "In practice, he's a very vocal person who tries to get everybody to play hard and emulate what he does."
Following Nash in points were juniors Justin Newell with 17 and Chavis Mattison with 13. Newell also led in rebounds with eight, and Mattison recorded seven.
"We're still getting used to each other," Nash said. "It's not going to happen overnight. We have to keep working hard and the results will show."
Northern Michigan and Lewis combined for 56 fouls due in part to an NCAA mandate that helps protect offensive players. Sall said the 'Cats will have to adjust their play in order take advantage of the rule change.
NMU abandoned its typical strategy in the second half, Sall said. In order to draw fouls, the Wildcats high screened and drove to the basket as fast as they could.
"In my opinion, it's not good for basketball," Sall said of the rule change. "I'm hoping everyone sees the light of what has to happen, because this is not healthy for the sport."
The Wildcats open GLIAC play at home against Walsh University on Dec. 5.