Bjorklund Carries Wildcats to Second Round of NCAA Tournament
The game was very back and forth as neither team was able to create separation early with both teams exchanging buckets.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WLUC) - Max Bjorklund dropped 34 points, the fifth time he’s hit at least 30 this season, to lead Northern Michigan to an NCAA Tournament first round victory over the Hillsdale Chargers, 86-81. They are now one of the final 32 teams in the big dance and will meet McKendree in the semifinals on Sunday. With the win, the ‘Cats improved to 25-7 on the season. It now marks the most wins a men’s basketball team has achieved in program history.
Bjorklund dropped 19 of his game-high 34 in the second half, including a step-back three in the closing seconds to ice the game and go up multiple possessions. He shot an efficient 13-21 and tied the team lead with five helpers. Max Weisbrod added 1 and Dylan Kuehl another 14. The Chargers were led by Peter Kalthoff with 28.
The game was very back and forth as neither team was able to create separation early with both teams exchanging buckets. Dylan Kuehl led the ‘Cats in the early minutes of the half, scoring six of NMU’s first 11 points. Max Bjorklund started his dominance in the final ten minutes of the first half, scoring 12 points in the final seven minutes and finished with 15 points in the first half. The teams went into the dressing room very tight, but the ‘Cats held a 43-39 advantage.
Both teams shot eerily similarly, as the ‘Cats shot 17-30 (56.7%) from the field and 5-9 (55.6%) from deep, and the Chargers went 17-29 (58.6%) from the floor and 4-10 (40%) from deep. The teams continued playing tug-of-war in the second half, and the Chargers got their first lead of the half at the 14:26 mark of the frame. Max Bjorklund reached the 20-point plateau to give the ‘Cats a three-point lead with just over 12 minutes to go, and the ‘Cats wouldn’t relinquish the lead again as they stayed ahead the rest of the way with some clutch buckets down the stretch.
NMU had an 81-78 lead with 40 seconds left, and Max Bjorklund called game as he sunk a dagger three-piece to give the ‘Cats am 84-78 lead with 11 seconds left to send the Wildcats on to the next round.
The ‘Cats will now match up with the No. 8 seed McKendree Bearcats, after they knocked off host UIndy, 77-63. The two teams are the hottest teams in the region, each riding seven-game win streaks into the meeting. Way back on November 12 in the season-opener, NMU edged McKendree 100-93 in Houghton behind 38 from Bjorklund.
The two teams will tip off at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday in Indianapolis. It will be the second of two semifinals, with No. 2 Missouri-St. Louis and No. 6 Ferris State clashing at 5 p.m.
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