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Northern Michigan University men’s basketball team hangs a hundred in first game of sweep over visiting Davenport

Northern Michigan University’s Sam Schultz, center, drives to the basket past Davenport’s James Felton, left, during the first half of their GLIAC basketball game played Sunday at the NMU PEIF gym in Marquette. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University men’s basketball team was in need of an injection of good news this weekend after losing three straight, particularly after a rough outing in a 22-point loss at Michigan Tech on Tuesday night.

They got that good news in a big way to open a series against visiting Davenport on Saturday afternoon as the Wildcats hit the triple-digit mark for the first time this season in a 100-70 win.

Looking strong on both sides of the ball, Max Bjorklund led NMU with 29 points, while three other players also finished in double figures. Northern then used a strong second half to top the Panthers 66-54 on Sunday as Ben Wolf led the way in that game with 13 points.

“I thought a little bit maybe a letdown at the end, but again, when you’re up 35 (points) or whatever we were, I think you almost expect that a little bit,” NMU second-year head coach Matt Majkrzak said about Saturday’s big scoring game. “I would say a complete win, great team effort.

“What we talked about was coming out of Tech, which was the worst performance we’ve had since I got here, you know you’re down and it was like everyone works on being the best version of themselves and that’ll help our team.

Northern Michigan University's Noah Parcher, center left, tries to put in a layup around the outstretched arms of Davenport's James Felton during the first half of their GLIAC game played on Sunday at the NMU PEIF gym in Marquette. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

“And I thought we almost got the best version of ourselves out of all of our kind of main rotation guys tonight. That was what they’re capable of doing and they all did it on the same night, which is great.”

The teams traded baskets for the majority of the first half until the final five minutes. A Dolapo Olayinka bucket gave the Wildcats a 37-26 lead with 4:23 left, and then with 1:25 left, he knocked down a trey to get the lead up to 14 at 46-32. The Panthers cut their deficit down to nine at 46-37 at halftime.

It didn’t take long for Northern to catch fire in the second half. With 15:38 remaining, Bjorklund drilled a 3-pointer to push the Wildcats’ advantage up to 22 at 60-38, and with 11:09 left Ben Wolf threw down a dunk to make it 70-45.

Tre Harvey made a 3-pointer with 8:34 left to put the Wildcats up by 30 at 82-52 as they cruised from there.

Sunday’s game wasn’t the offensive explosion of the day before. The Panthers opened with a 7-0 lead, but a Noah Parcher 3-pointer cut NMU’s deficit to 11-9 with 14:12 left in the first half. However, Davenport went on another 8-0 surge before it ended on a Harvey layup with 8:54 remaining.

Northern didn’t let up, though. A jumper by Harvey with 3:46 left got the Wildcats within one and a triple by Justin Kuehl a few moments later gave them the lead at 25-23. The Panthers answered with two buckets, though, and took a 27-25 advantage into the half.

The momentum swung to start the second half. NMU pulled within one on two free throws by Parcher with 12:20 left to make it 37-36 Panthers, and Harvey handed the ‘Cats the lead with two free throws soon after. Northern got its lead up to five twice, and then with about 7:20 left Bjorklund beat the shot-clock buzzer for a trey to make it 50-44.

The Panthers got NMU’s advantage down to three at 52-49, but a free throw and then a dunk by Olayinka pushed the lead back up to six with about 5:10 left. With 4:43 to go, a three-point play from Wolf gave the Wildcats their biggest advantage up to that point at 58-49. NMU then put the game away with an 8-0 run, including two baskets from Wolf on feeds from Parcher, to push the advantage to 66-51.

Majkrzak knew that Davenport would be hungry to make up for its performance the day before and he felt the game was almost a “carbon copy” to how he thought it was going to go.

He also credited his team’s defensive effort for pulling off the sweep.

“I think it took the defense hanging in there,” he said after Sunday’s game. “I think that was the key. I thought our defense kept us in it by just battling the whole time and not letting kind of bad offense dictate that we were going to stop guarding the way we’re capable of, and it was the first good defensive effort we’ve had in awhile.

“Those are the games I love coaching, when it feels like the other team’s not getting anything easy and every look is really hard and even the shots they made (Sunday), I thought were contested and tough.

“And I love coaching that because at some point if you have good players, your players will go make some good plays, and I thought offensively we didn’t … flow great and we didn’t do all that stuff perfectly, but at the end of the day, our guys made some big-time plays individually.”

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

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