Northern Michigan University men’s basketball team falls into 4-way tie atop GLIAC after loss at Lake Superior State
SAULT STE. MARIE — Despite balanced scoring, foul trouble bothered the Northern Michigan University men’s basketball team in a 65-61 loss at Lake Superior State on Thursday night.
The loss knocked the Wildcats into a four-way logjam at the top of the GLIAC. NMU (15-5 overall), Lake State (8-10), Ferris State (16-5) and Wisconsin-Parkside (14-6) are all 7-3 in league games, a game ahead of 6-4 Grand Valley State and a game and a half up on 5-4 Saginaw Valley State.
The top eight teams qualify for the GLIAC postseason tournament in early March, with the top four getting to play at home in the opening quarterfinal round.
Northern doesn’t get any relief from top competition on Saturday either, playing in Big Rapids at coleader Ferris State at 3 p.m. that day.
On Thursday, though, GLIAC leading scorer Max Bjorklund barely got half his average with 11 points, though that led the Wildcats.
Teammates Max Weisbrod and Jackson Dudek added 10 points, while Northern’s Dylan Kuehl and Najashi Tolefree scored seven apiece.
But Kuehl, who has been providing solid scoring and often dominating rebounding throughout the season, fouled out with about seven minutes left, while Tolefree was knocked out with his fifth foul seconds before the end.
The Lakers had control at the game’s outset, establishing a 19-11 lead with 7:58 left in the first half on a Kemon Bassett jumper.
Bassett led all scorers with 25 points as he also blocked four shots.
Then NMU worked its way back, taking a 28-27 lead with 2:12 left in the half on a Kuehl 3 and still had a 31-30 edge at halftime.
The Wildcats kept that lead for a barely a minute to start the second half, trading the lead several times with the Lakers, before LSSU went ahead for good, 38-35, after a Xander Okerlund triple with 16:51 left.
Northern kept it a one-score game for another five minutes, still only trailing 44-42 on a Ben Wolf free throw with 11:52 remaining.
Lake State extended the lead a bit after that, including 54-45 with 7:15 to go on a a pair of Bassett free throws.
That was right around the time Kuehl fouled out, but despite being shorthanded, the Wildcats pulled within 58-56 with 2:32 left on a pair of Bjorklund free throws.
The teams twice traded layups after that, then each hit a single free throw in the final 12 seconds that left Northern down 63-61 with eight ticks remaining after a Weisbrod charity toss.
NMU was forced to foul with time running out, and Okerlund hit two free throws with seven seconds remaining to provide the final four-point margin.
Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.