Northern Michigan University Wildcats men’s basketball team’s last-second shot fails to fall again in loss to Saginaw Valley State

Northern Michigan University’s Sam Taylor, left, looks to get past Saginaw Valley State’s Malik Ellison in their GLIAC game Saturday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Amy Grigas)

MARQUETTE — Saturday afternoon was another frustrating outing for the Northern Michigan University men’s basketball team.

Once again, the Wildcats had a good opportunity to get a win at the Berry Events Center, but just like in Thursday’s loss to Northwood, a last-second 3-point attempt rimmed out as Northern fell to Saginaw Valley State 64-58. The Cardinals made three free throws with less than a second left to ice the victory.

Even though the final offensive scenario was the same as Thursday, Northern head coach Matt Majkrzak felt that Saturday’s game was even more exasperating as the Wildcats were dealt their third straight loss.

“I think it’s going to be frustrating (to watch game film) and to be honest, I think it’s going to be more frustrating than Thursday because I think we just didn’t convert on a lot of plays, offensively and defensively,” he said. “Even though we kind of held them down a little bit, I think we left a lot of plays out there. Northwood was … just not making shots.

“(On Saturday), I felt like we’re going to see a lot of instances where if we could’ve came up with a 50-50 ball, or if we could’ve finished at the rim one on one, or we could’ve knocked down free throws because we went 9 of 16 … we go win the game.”

After Saginaw’s Myles Belyeu hit a jumper to extend the Cardinals’ lead to three points with 25 seconds left, the Wildcats (3-5, 0-2 GLIAC) had a chance to tie it and potentially force overtime, but Alec Fruin’s 3-point attempt with three seconds remaining rimmed out.

Down by seven at halftime, NMU started to climb back into the game in the second half. Two buckets by Troy Summers and a layup by Myles Howard helped get Saginaw’s lead down to three at 43-40 with 11:30 left. Less than a minute later, a triple by Marcus Matelski cut the Wildcats’ deficit to two, 45-43.

The Cardinals (5-3, 1-1) bumped their lead back to nine with 6:01 left on two free throws by Malik Ellison, but the Wildcats kept clawing back with Taylor leading the way. The senior hit three 3-pointers to get Northern within one at 55-54 with 4:03 left.

On NMU’s next possession, Taylor dished the ball to Ben Wolf, who put in a layup with 2:56 left to give the ‘Cats their first lead all day. After Saginaw retook the lead, Taylor made a nice reverse layup to cut the Cards’ advantage to one at 59-58 with 1:20 left.

Just like in the Northwood game, Taylor seemed to will the Wildcats back into the game in the second half as he finished Saturday with a team-high 17 points.

“I just felt that I had to take it upon myself with senior leadership,” he said. “Once I made the first 3, I knew I was gonna make the second because that’s the type of player I am. Once I make my first one, I get confident and I know I can step up and make a play. So that’s what I tried to do.”

Majkrzak praised Taylor for his effort as well as his constant competitiveness out on the court.

“Sam is doing what you want seniors to do,” the coach said. “He’s taking ownership of not only his play but our team’s play. His competitiveness hasn’t wavered whether he shoots the ball or doesn’t shoot the ball.

“It’s nice to see him get rewarded for that kind of toughness and energy and composure by making some shots here at home this weekend.”

Belyeu had 18 points in the first half and led all scorers with 28.

Northern travels to Upper Peninsula rival Michigan Tech on Sunday.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.