Naba Echols, Isaiah Johnson lead Northern Michigan University Wildcat men to victory

Naba Echols

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University took over the lead in the game’s second minute and never trailed again in an 82-71 victory over Northwood in a GLIAC men’s basketball game played at the Berry Events Center on Thursday night.

The Wildcats (4-3 overall) got a game-high 23 points from starting guard Naba Echols and 22 points and a team-high eight rebounds from another starting guard, Isaiah Johnson, to win their home and conference opener.

Northwood (2-4, 0-1) got 22 points from guard Nick Spitzley.

Though NMU led for almost the entire game, Northern had to weather a Timberwolves comeback near the midpoint of the second half that shrunk a 15-point lead, 61-46, down to just four points, 63-59, in a span of 4 1/2 minutes.

The big lead came when Johnson made a layup with 13:54 remaining while Northwood’s smallest deficit came at the end of a 13-2 run culminated by Spitzley’s 3-pointer with 9:25 to go.

Isaiah Johnson

The Wildcats needed less than 3 1/2 minutes to rebuild a double-digit lead of 61-51 when Jordan Perez hit the first of two free throws with 6:05 left. NMU kept a lead of at least 10 points the rest of the way.

Northern took a 4-1 lead 1:16 into the game on a Sam Taylor 3-pointer, building its advantage to 14 points twice at 42-28 and 44-30, the latter when Max Prendergast slammed home a dunk 3:39 before halftime.

Northwood, however, whittled its deficit to 46-40 at the break.

Though the Timberwolves shot their 3-pointers better, making 11 to just three for NMU, the Wildcats held decided advantages in their overall shooting in addition to the free-throw line.

Northern made 50 percent from the field (33 of 66) to just 38 percent for the T’wolves (24 of 64), while the ‘Cats also sizzled at the charity stripe, sinking 13 of 14 (93 percent) vs. 12 of 20 for Northwood (60 percent).

Rebounds were nearly even, 38-37 in favor of NMU, and turnovers equal with 11 apiece.

Echols and Dolapo Olayinka, who scored 12 points, each pulled down five rebounds for Northern as the pair also combined to make 9 of 9 free throws.

The Wildcats remain home to host another GLIAC South foe, Saginaw Valley State, at 11 a.m. Saturday. A past great of the NMU men’s program will be honored during Gene Summers Appreciation Day at halftime, along with a 3:30 p.m. reception on campus.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.