MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) – Northern Michigan University Men's Basketball picked up their first victory of the season as they defeated McKendree University 93-70 in the season opener.
Pacing the Wildcats was senior Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) with 24 points. Johnson finished 9 of 15 from the field, shooting 60%, and 4 of 7 from the three-point line.
Senior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn.) added 21 points, including a 5 of 5 performance from the free throw line, while sophomore Dolapo Olayinka (Chicago, Ill.) chipped in with 14 points and had a team-high six rebounds.
Junior Sam Taylor (Chicago, Ill.) aided the team's effort with 11 points, six rebounds and also led the team with two steals. Freshman Naseer Turner (Chicago, Ill.) led the defense with two blocked shots in his debut.
The team's traded three-pointers to open the game, and NMU jumped out to an early 11-point lead.
Echols tied the score at 3-3 and then Johnson sank a three to make it 6-3. On the next NMU possession, Johnson made another three to answer an MCK layup, pushing the NMU lead up to four points, 9-5. Taylor stole the ball and Echols finished the play with a layup to make it 11-5.
A minute later, at 15:17 on the clock, Taylor made a layup. After the visitors made two free throws, Johnson sank his third three-pointer of the game to make it 16-7. On the next possession, Olayinka grabbed an offensive rebound and made a layup, moving the score to 18-7 with just over 14 minutes to play and forced a McKendree timeout.
REBUILDING THE LEAD
The Bearcats managed to chip away at the lead, making the score 22-20 at the 11:18 mark but NMU responded and rebuilt a double-digit lead.
After MCK hit a three to make it 22-20, Olayinka made a layup and was followed by senior Kenton Mack (Algonquin, Ill.) also making a layp. The teams traded possession before Johnson sank a jumper and Olayinka made another layup to make it 30-20 with 8:21 in the first half.
The teams would then trade baskets for the next four minutes until Taylor's first made three made it 39-28 with 3:35 to play in the half. McKendree tried to chip into the lead again, but NMU held on and took a 49-39 lead into the break.
PUSH TO VICTORY
Over the first five minutes of the second half, the Bearcats cut into the deficit and made it 53-50 at the 14:48 mark. However, at this point NMU responded and never looked back.
Johnson started the run with a three-pointer and then hit a jumper to push the NMU lead back to 58-50. Olayinka followed with two layups of his own before Turner made a layup of his own. McKendree stopped the run with a three, but NMU had jumped out to a 64-53 lead with 11:37 to play.
Johnson answered the guest basket with a made shot and redshirt freshman Troy Summers (Grayling, Mich.) made a laypu before a McKendree free throw, then made the old-fashioned three-pointer to make it 71-54 with 10 minutes to go in the game.
Echols was successful on a layup and then Mack made another which gave NMU their first 20-point lead of the game, leading 75-54 with 7:47 to go. The Wildcats were able to push their lead up to 25 points and cruised to a 93-70 victory.
With the win, NMU starts the year 1-0 and will return to action Sunday afternoon to host Lewis University at 3 p.m.