Good weekend for Northern Michigan University could end GLIAC men’s basketball race

Northern Michigan University’s Carson Smith, center, stretches out to get off a shot around Michigan Tech’s Nate Abel and score during their GLIAC men’s basketball game played at MTU in Houghton on Saturday. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

MARQUETTE — National prestige is nice, but the Northern Michigan University men’s basketball could really use a pair of wins over the next three days to possibly wrap up the regular season title in the GLIAC.

The Wildcats are ranked No. 19 in this week’s NCAA Division II College Sports Communicators poll as they are 19-7 overall and 12-2 atop the league.

NMU has a two-game lead on second-place Lake Superior State (10-4), and with four games remaining can clinch a share of the conference title with two victories no matter what the Lakers do, and could wrap up the title if the Wildcats win more games than LSSU does.

Northern’s games are its last ones on the road in the regular season with a date at University Center against Saginaw Valley State at 7:30 p.m. today and in Detroit against Wayne State at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The Cardinals are hanging onto the eighth and final spot in the upcoming GLIAC Tournament at 13-11 overall and 6-9 in the league, while the Warriors are in the conference basement at 10-14 and 4-11.

“Saginaw is a really hard place to play and Wayne State has played everyone tough,” NMU head coach Matt Majkrzak said in an NMU Sports Information release previewing the games. “For us, we have to get better ourselves while preparing for two tough opponents on the road and we have to find that balance.”

The games will be broadcast on radio station WUPT 100.3 FM The Point, while fans can follow @NMUMensBBALL and @NMU_Wildcats on Twitter for updates at all times. Or visit the NMU athletics website at nmuwildcats.com and look under the men’s basketball schedule for links to game previews and history and live statistics, audio and video.

Last weekend, Northern lost at former eighth-place Michigan Tech 80-69 as the Wildcats were shorthanded without GLIAC top-five scorer and assist maker Max Weisbrod.

Carson Smith picked up the scoring slack with 20 points as he made 8 of 11 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers, while Dylan Kuehl added 14 points, Riley Brooks 13 and Sam Privet 11.

But Tech, which scored the final eight points over the last 2 1/2 minutes to pull away from a one-possession lead, was led by Marcus Tomashek with 34 points that included 7-of-10 shooting on triples along with a game-high nine rebounds.

Today’s opponent, SVSU, has lost four of five. But the Cardinals are 10-3 at home this season, overall averaging 79.1 points per game scored and 73.8 ppg allowed. They’ve had some impressive wins, including by 13 points over the second-place Lakers, 10 points over Ferris State and seven over former conference member Hillsdale.

SVSU shoots 47.7% from the field, including 32.3% on 3s, as junior Toodles Seal averages 18.3 ppg, second in the conference, senior Tre Garrett 17.3 ppg, fourth in the league, and senior Freddie McIntosh 16.3 ppg.

In December, NMU dumped the Cardinals 71-56 in Marquette, turning a four-point halftime lead into the double-digit win. Along with 10 rebounds, Kuehl had career highs of 30 points and six blocked shots.

Despite its struggles, Wayne State is 8-4 at home with overall averages of 72.4 ppg for and 73.2 ppg against as the Warriors shoot 46.1% from the field and 31.7% on 3s, worst in the league.

Senior Carmelo Harris averages 13.3 ppg on 41.3% shooting.

In December, NMU pulled out a 75-69 win over Wayne State in Marquette as Brian Parzych and Kuehl each scored 24 points.

Here are some other notes on the Wildcats as collected by NMU Sports Information:

• NMU’s Sam Schultz continues to lead the GLIAC at 9.8 rebounds per game, good for 15th in the country. He is looking to become the first Wildcat since 1987-88 (Lake Cosby, 11.8 rebound average) to average double-digit rebounds over a season.

• In his last nine games, Weisbrod has been one of the best players in the country, averaging 22.3 ppg while shooting an efficient 47.1% (32 of 68) from beyond the arc. On the season, he is fifth in the GLIAC in scoring (16.9 ppg), third in assists per game (4.3) and second in 3-pointers made (71 of 177, 40.1%). In conference play, his 19.1 ppg ranks third and his 44 triples are first.

• The 1.67 assist-to-turnover ratio for the ‘Cats is the sixth best mark in the country. Northern is also averaging 5.8 more rebounds a contest than its opponents, good for 28th in the nation and second in the GLIAC to Ferris State (plus-6.4). NMU is only allowing 7.4 offensive rebounds a contest, also the second-best mark among conference teams.

• The Wildcats average 79.2 ppg while allowing 70.9 ppg. The offensive number is second in the GLIAC. Northern has allowed the fewest points per game in conference play (68.6). NMU ranks third in the conference in field goal percentage, shooting 47.9% from the floor.

The ‘Cats are near the top of the conference in both creating and preventing assists, with their 16.0 a game offensively is third most and 10.7 against the second fewest.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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