Northern Michigan University men cough up huge lead before getting eliminated in GLIAC tourney

Naba Echols

ASHLAND, Ohio — The Northern Michigan University men’s basketball team had an opportunity to do something it hadn’t done in a long time — win a game in the GLIAC Tournament, but in the end, it couldn’t make a big halftime lead stand up.

The fifth-seeded Wildcats held a 17-point lead at the half, but fourth-seeded Ashland rallied back to force overtime. Once in the extra session, the Eagles outscored Northern 18-7 and eliminated the Wildcats with an 83-72 victory.

Northern (15-12, 12-8 GLIAC) hit 10 3-pointers in the first half and ended it on a 34-12 run, but things went downhill after the break.

Naba Echols led the Wildcats with 28 points, while Isaiah Johnson had 15. Ashland (20-9, 12-8) had five players score in double figures, led by Marsalis Hamilton with 21 points.

Ashland took an early 11-2 lead, but a combined scoring effort helped NMU get back in it. A triple by Jordan Perez cut the Wildcats’ deficit to two with eight minutes left in the half, and then the senior knocked down another trey to put Northern ahead.

It was bombs away at that point for the Wildcats as Perez, Echols and Johnson all started hitting shots from beyond the arc. A late triple from Echols put NMU up 44-27 at the half.

Things started off well in the second half with a dunk by Myles Howard giving the Wildcats a 22-point advantage. However, Ashland started to catch fire with a little more than 15 minutes left. The Eagles went on some short runs and then scored nine straight points to help pull within eight.

With 5:30 left, Ashland cut its deficit to one, 61-60.

Eventually, Ashland took the lead with two free throws with 1:21 remaining. Echols gave Northern a one-point lead with two free throws of his own, but the Wildcats were whistled for a foul with six seconds left. Ashland dropped in one of its free throws to tie the game and send it to OT.

Things really fell apart for NMU in the extra frame. The Eagles went on a 7-0 run to start things off and kept rolling from there.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Writer Ryan Stieg. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.