Northern Michigan University Wildcat men’s basketball team toughs out 79-75 win at struggling Saginaw Valley State

Northern Michigan University’s Dylan Kuehl stretches for the hoop while taking a shot during a men’s game played against Northwood at the PEIF Gym in Marquette on Dec. 19. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

UNIVERSITY CENTER — For never trailing in the game, the Northern Michigan University men’s basketball team had its work cut out for it to pull out a 79-75 victory at Saginaw Valley State on Thursday evening.

Though the Cardinals are barely hanging onto eighth place and the final spot in the upcoming GLIAC Tournament, they’ve been a tough out at home, compiling a 10-3 record there coming into this game, according to a game account provided by NMU Sports Information.

With the win, the Wildcats moved ever closer to clinching the GLIAC regular-season title as they reached the 20-win plateau at 20-7 overall, along with 13-2 in the conference.

NMU held onto its two-game edge over second-place Lake Superior State (11-4), which downed Davenport 73-56 in Grand Rapids on Thursday.

Northern can clinch at least a share of the title with a win at ninth-place Wayne State (5-11) at 3 p.m. Saturday, though the Warriors are fighting to get back into the GLIAC postseason as they’re a single game behind SVSU.

And if the Wildcats can win while LSSU loses at fourth-place Grand Valley State on Saturday, NMU would be able to hoist the regular-season championship.

None of that would be happening if Northern hadn’t put together one of its patented end-of-the-game runs to pull out the victory on Thursday.

While never leading, the Cardinals did pull into a 73-73 tie with 35 seconds remaining after SVSU’s Maurice Anderson knocked down a 3-pointer.

But the Wildcats outscored their hosts 6-2 in the final stretch to get the win.

It started with 26 seconds left when NMU’s Carson Smith hit a jumper for a 75-73 lead. Then SVSU used about 10 seconds to set up Freddie McIntosh with a layup opportunity, but he missed it and Smith was fouled on the defensive rebound.

He sank both free throws to make it 77-73 with 11 seconds to go before the Cards’ Tre Garrett hit a short jumper from the paint with 7 seconds left.

SVSU immediately fouled Northern on its inbounds pass, sending Riley Brooks to the line as he joined Smith in sinking both his free throws to restore the two-possession lead till the end.

Smith was one of four Northern players to score in double figures with 19 points, making 6 of 6 free throws, grabbing a team-high six rebounds and committing no turnovers in 32 minutes on the court.

Teammate Dylan Kuehl led all scorers with 21 points, making 7 of 12 from the field and 6 of 9 free throws while adding four rebounds.

With leading scorer Max Weisbrod still out of the lineup, fellow guards Brian Parzych and Brooks helped pick up the slack, scoring 17 and 15 points, respectively. They each hit three 3-pointers as Parzych had five rebounds and two steals and Brooks getting four rebounds and hitting all four of his free throw attempts.

Garrett led SVSU with 19 points and a game-high seven steals, while McIntosh and Toodles Seal each scored 17, McIntosh knocking down a trio of triples with Seal grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds. Anderson scored 12 points with two 3s.

Leading 16-14 just past the midpoint of the first half, the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run as Smith hit a pair of free throws and a layup eight seconds apart while Parzych sank a trey and a deuce separated by 43 seconds to make it 25-14 with 8:02 left before halftime.

NMU continued to build on the lead, getting it up to as large of an advantage as 43-25 when Brooks sank a 3 with 2:22 left. The Wildcats were hotter than a pistol in the Wild West during this stretch, going a perfect 12 of 12 from the field over a 9 1/2-minute stretch ending when the lead reached 18 points.

Trailing 46-32 at halftime, SVSU found its own offense to open the second half with a 10-2 run and get its deficit back to single digits, 48-42, with 15:18 left.

While Northern was able to bump its lead back to double digits one more time, 54-44, with 11:45 left following a pair of Sam Schultz free throws, the Cardinals hung in there until they got it down to a one-possession game, 71-68, with 2:03 left after a Garrett free throw.

It took another minute and a half for them to tie the game, setting up the Wildcats’ late heroics.

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


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