ESCANABA - When last these two teams met in their season openers, Escanaba traveled to Negaunee and gave the Miners quite the scare. Brandon Robinette poured in a career-high 34 points and Negaunee barely escaped with a three-point victory.
The Miners' response in the rematch Thursday night spoke volumes.
In a game that was never close, Negaunee (5-1) dominated with hot shooting and outstanding defense in an easy 67-47 victory that left the Eskymos (4-2) stunned.
"I have to give all the credit to Negaunee, they're a really good team and we just got off to a really poor start," Eskymos head coach Tracy Hudson said. "We dug ourselves a hole and didn't answer the bell early and we're disappointed.
"We've been playing so well. I just told the kids to put this one behind us."
It quickly became apparent that this would not be the Eskymos' night. Negaunee guards Tyler Jandron and Eric Lori forced turnovers in the first quarter and shut down the Esky offense from the start. Halfway through the quarter, the Eskymos trailed 12-2 after back-to-back triples from Jandron and Lori.
Negaunee 67, Escanaba 47
NEGAUNEE - Radloff 11, E. Lori 21, Jandron 12, J. Lori 13, Loy 5, Windahl 5; FT: 5-8; F: 13; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: E. Lori 3, Jandron, Loy, Windahl.
ESCANABA - Hardwick 2, Hiltunen 2, Kleiman 3, Molnar 17, Rodman 4, Ogren 3, Robinette 10, Skufca 6; FT: 3-10; F: 12; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Kleiman, Molnar.
Score by quarters:
Negaunee 21 24 13 9 - 67
Escanaba 8 17 11 11 - 47
Another three from Lori pushed the lead to 19-6. Then with 1.1 seconds remaining in the period, Lori received an inbounds pass wide open on the right side of the rim that he swooshed as the buzzer sounded as the Miners carried a 21-8 lead into the second.
The hot shooting continued into the second, as the Miners hit three more triples and carried a 20-point lead into the half.
"Everything looks better when the shots are going in, and that's what happened," Miners coach Mike O'Donnell said. "We shot the ball extremely well on the road in a tough environment."
But the big difference may have been the job the Miners did on Robinette. The Eskymos' big man was held to 10 points, four in the first half with Eric Lori plus help hounding him all game.
"In practice, our whole focus was guarding Brandon," said Lori, who scored a game-high 21 points. "He's a great player and we had five players all around him, just waiting for him to make his move. That was what we were trying to do."
O'Donnell said he put the 5-foot-10 Lori on the 6-5 big man as a change of pace.
"He had 34 against us the first game and we tried going with a big on him last time and he really exploited that with his quickness and slashing ability to get to the rim," he said. "So we went small and tried to get help on defense, and Eric did a really good job positioning himself, got him out of his comfort zones and did a good job of crowding him.
"We wanted to make sure he didn't go off. We wanted to keep him under 15 (points) and we accomplished that goal."
Even with a 20-point advantage, the Miners kept the pressure on out of the intermission, beginning the third quarter on a 7-1 run and expanding their lead even further.
"We said at halftime that the first four minutes were crucial," O'Donnell said. "That 20-point spread would either get down to 11 or 12 points and Escanaba would be back in the game, or we could push the lead up and essentially make them play from behind, and we accomplished that."