Northern Michigan rallies for gritty win over Wayne State

It was a struggle early on for the Wildcats, as they trailed 27-10 over halfway through the first half
Published: Feb. 5, 2023 at 9:31 PM EST
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Down by as many as 17 in the first half, the Wildcats (17-6, 9-4) slowly rallied for an old-fashioned comeback win over the visiting Wayne State Warriors (7-12, 4-8) on Saturday at the Berry Events Center. It was a struggle early on for the Wildcats, as they trailed 27-10 over halfway through the first half. The Green and Gold seemingly couldn’t get shots to fall, had struggle keeping care of the ball, and ran into a hot-shooting streak from the Warriors early on.

NMU would persevere, closing the deficit to 36-32 at halftime and outscoring WSU 31-22 in the second half. Max Bjorklund led the comeback attack for the ‘Cats, scoring 12 of his team-high 16 in the closing 20 minutes. Max Weisbrod added a dozen to go along with six rebounds and five helpers.

The biggest baskets arguably came from other ‘Cats, however, as Carson Smith hit a triple with less than six minutes left to regain the lead that NMU would not relinquish and Dylan Kuehl hit two tough baskets in the final minute to put the game on ice.

The Warriors jumped on the Wildcats early, building a 10-4 early cushion behind a pair of triples. Wayne State would string together a significant 11-0 run over a three-minute window to stretch the lead to 27-10 over ten minutes into the first half. Carmelo Harris ignited the run for WSU, hitting three consecutive triples. NMU was able to respond with ten straight jumpstarted by a Weisbrod triple. After the sides exchanged 5-0 blows, the Green and Gold finished the half with 12 of the last 16 to make it 36-32 at intermission.

Weisbrod had 10 in the opening 20 minutes for NMU, but WSU’s Avery Lewis was a force at all levels of the floor with 13 points. After a few empty possessions on each side to start the second, the first two buckets came from the ‘Cats and the game was tied at 36 all a few minutes in. Neither side had more than a six-point lead for nearly the entire second half, as a lot of back-and-forth was exchanged both in the paint and beyond the arc for much of the final 20 minutes.

With 5:53 to go, arguably NMU’s biggest bucket of the game came from Carson Smith. The redshirt sophomore gave NMU the lead with a splash from deep. That lead would be be renounced for the rest of the contest. It was part of a 9-0 spurt that saw the Wildcats grab a six-point advantage with less than five minutes to play.

What helped the Wildcats pull through? Hands in the face defense and timely hoops were the key to success in crunch time for the Green and Gold. Since the start of NMU’s 9-0 run at 5:53 until the end of the game, WSU was just 3-11 from the floor. On the offensive side of the ball, Dylan Kuehl connected on two tough baskets in the final minute to wrap-up the comeback win.

The ‘Cats will head downstate, with trips to Davenport and Grand Valley State on the docket. The trip will open up on Thursday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m. against the Panthers.