Perfect at the break: Northern Michigan University Wildcat men drop Michigan Tech 77-65 for 5-0 GLIAC record

Northern Michigan University’s Will Carius, front left, goes down with Michigan Tech’s Trent Bell, right, and Dillon Gordon on defense Sunday afternoon at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Bell is a 2017 graduate and past star at Negaunee High School. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

“As a coach you can kind of sense that kind of emotion and that buzz and they played like it.” — Bill Sall, head coach, NMU men’s basketball

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MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University men’s basketball team will go into the holiday break with a perfect 5-0 record in GLIAC play after a 77-65 victory over Michigan Tech at the Berry Events Center on Sunday afternoon.

It was the first win for NMU (8-3) over the Huskies (7-4, 4-1 GLIAC) in five games, and the first win at the BEC since Feb. 2, 2013.

NMU head coach Bill Sall said his team embraced the rivalry and his players were ready to go from the beginning.

“It was in the locker room before we started that buzz that you want to have out of your players and it wasn’t just another game,” he said. “As a coach you can kind of sense that kind of emotion and that buzz and they played like it today. I’m really happy with our overall effort today and how we defended.”

NMU junior guard Naba Echols said the unbeaten conference record at the break is a mark he’s proud of.

“5-0 going into Christmas break is wonderful,” he said. “Especially where we came from last year, I think we were 0-5 or 0-7 going into Christmas break, so let’s just say Christmas is going to be pretty fun this year in the GLIAC for us.”

MTU head coach Kevin Luke said he credits the Wildcats for playing hard, which forced the Huskies into trying a little too hard to get baskets.

“In this game the credit goes to Northern Michigan University,” he said. “I thought they played the kind of game they needed to play to be able to come out on top. I can’t tell you why we were as bad as we were, it was just one of those games that was not good for Michigan Tech today.

“We got to a point where we were trying so hard that we were messing everything up. We didn’t execute very well and I think the opportunities were there, but we didn’t capitalize on many of them.”

The Wildcats controlled the game from the start. After MTU notched the first basket, NMU scored 13 of the next 15 points to go up 13-4.

In the middle of that stretch, there was a roughly 10-minute delay due to a shot clock malfunction. Officials worked to resolve the issue with the scorers’ table as the teams used the time for another shootaround just over four minutes into the game.

Sall said he was worried that his team would come out flat after that.

“We started out ready to roll and then suddenly you have a clock malfunction,” he said. “I’m very worried because there was a five-minute pause and then it’s like ‘OK, now what’s going to happen?’ because I thought we were ready to get on them.”

The Wildcats were far from flat, though. After giving up the lead at 19-18 following a shot by MTU junior guard Bryan Heath, NMU got it right back on a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Sam Taylor.

Taylor had seven points in the first half, while Echols led the way with 13 to put the Wildcats up 37-26 at the break.

NMU extended that lead into the second half, going up by as many as 19 points at 65-46.

The Huskies didn’t go down lightly, though, clawing back from that deficit to cut the lead to six, 71-65, with 2:10 to play.

NMU senior guard Eddie Tornes made sure Tech’s comeback didn’t come to fruition, though, sinking two consecutive triples to seal the game.

Echols finished with 21 points and four assists, while Tornes had 20 points and four rebounds. The Wildcats had four players score in double digits.

Leading the Huskies was junior forward Kyle Monroe with 24 points, four assists and 11 rebounds, while Marquette Senior High School graduate A.J. Grazulis added 13 points.

The Wildcats head west to take on Minnesota-Duluth (2-7) in a nonconference clash on Tuesday afternoon.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.