HILLSDALE, Mich. (WLUC) – Northern Michigan University Men's Basketball closed the game with a 38-17 run to defeat Hillsdale College 80-68 and moved to 5-0 to start the season for the first time since the 1984-85 season.
Three players reached double figures to lead the offense with senior Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) leading the way with 20 points. Johnson hit 6-7 from the field and was a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. Senior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn.) added 17 points and dished out four assists.
Junior Sam Taylor (Chicago, Ill.) added four three-pointers and finished with 13 points, three assists and two steals. Junior Myles Howard (Chicago, Ill.) chipped in with seven points and led the team with nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
Off the bench, junior Alec Fruin (Beloit, Wis.) tallied a career-high eight points, hitting two threes and two free throws. He also posted two steals.
NMU finished the game shooting 55.3% from the field and made 56.3% of their three-pointers. At the free throw line, the Wildcats finished 19-23 while the Chargers only finished 6-9.
STARTING THE GAME
Johnson and junior Kenton Mack (Algonquin, Ill.) made layups early then Johnson made a second layup after a Hillsdale three to make it 6-3 early. After a Charger free throw, Taylor made his first three and the score was 9-4 three minutes into the game.
The hosts made a basket but Mack and Echols followed with jumpers. The Chargers answered and managed to take a 19-13 lead at the 9:28 mark.
CLOSING OUT THE HALF
After a timeout, junior Marcus Matelski (Boyne Falls, Mich.) made a three-pointer followed by a Howard dunk and another Matelski three to make it 21-19 following the eight-point run.
Hillsdale tied the score but Johnson responded with a jumper. After another tie, Taylor hit from three again, but the hosts answered and tied the score at 26-26 with four minutes left in the half.
Sophomore Dolapo Olayinka (Chicago, Ill.) made a free throw but the hosts responded to take a 31-27 lead. Echols then made a jumper but Hillsdale sank two free throws before Echols made a three-pointer to make it a 33-32 Hillsdale lead with 1:50 left in the half.
Both teams scored one more time before the half sending the game into halftime with a 35-34 Charger lead.
BEGINNING THE SECOND HALF
Hillsdale opened the half with a score which Mack answered, but two more Charger baskets made it 41-36 before Myles dunked it again. After another HC score, Johnson sank two free throws.
With the score 43-40, Hillsdale made a three then answered a Johnson jumper with another three and a layup and took a 51-42 lead with 14:07 to play.
Olayinka stopped the quick rally with two free throws then Howard converted a three-point play. Echols followed with a jumper before Fruin hit a three to give NMU a 52-51 lead after a 10-0 run. The hosts made a layup to stop the run and took the lead back, 53-52 with 11 minutes to play.
After a timeout, Taylor hit from outside again and Fruin sank two from the free throw line to take a 57-53 lead. Taylor then hit from deep and made it 60-53 with eight minutes remaining. After another timeout, Johnson made two free throws and answered a Charger score making it 64-56 with seven minutes to go.
Hillsdale cut into the lead with four points but Johnson answered with two more free throws. After another Hillsdale score Fruin answered with his second three of the game, moving the lead to 69-62 with less than five to play.
Echols and Johnson both hit jumpers to extend the lead and Echols made two free throws giving the Wildcats a 75-52 lead with three minutes left. The Chargers followed with two scores before Johnson sank two more free throws to make it 77-66 with two minutes to go.
Echols made two free throws and Taylor made one after another Hillsdale score but the hosts was unable to get any closer to give NMU the 80-68 victory.
The Wildcats move to 5-0 and are off to their best start since the 1984-85 team started 6-0. The Wildcats have had 19 winning seasons including five 20-win seasons during that span.
NMU will now prepare to enter Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action as they visit Northwood University Thursday night. They host Purdue University-Northwest on Thursday, December 6 for their first home GLIAC contest of the season.