Wildcat Men's Basketball Holds Off Wayne State, 75-71

Wildcat Men's Basketball Holds Off Wayne State, 75-71

DETROIT — In a back-and-forth game featuring eight ties and 15 lead changes, the Northern Michigan men's basketball team held off Wayne State, 75-71, Saturday afternoon at the Matthaei Center.

Four Wildcat starters scored in the double digits, led by Naba Echols, who posted a season-best 25 points.

With 4:56 to play, Ronald Booth sank a three-point shot to give the Warriors a 62-59 advantage. Northern Michigan responded by stringing together a 9-0 run highlighted by a Marcus Matelski three-point shot and four Echols free throws to take a 68-62 edge at the 1:55 mark.

The Wildcats made five of their six free throws, and Echols drained a clutch jump shot after Wayne State narrowed the gap to three points with 24 seconds on the clock, to ice the game.

The Warriors led at halftime, 40-38. After Northern Michigan bolted out to an 11-5 lead in the first 15 minutes, Wayne State used an 8-2 run to even the score at 13 all by the 12:11 mark. After that, the teams traded baskets; neither could build a lead of more than six points the rest of the way.

The back-and-forth play continued into the second half. With six minutes left to play, the game was deadlocked at 59-59. Before that point, neither team could generate any meaningful separation; the largest lead either held was four points.

Brett Branstrom led the Wildcats with a career-best 10 rebounds. Isaiah Johnson, who was second on the team with 17 points, finished one rebound shy of a double double.

Jordan Perez (14) and Matelski (11) also scored in the double digits. Echols and Matelski each sank three shots from beyond the three-point arc. Johnson and Echols tied for the team lead with four assists.

Northern Michigan shot 46.3 percent from the floor, 47.6 from three and 78.9 from the free-throw line. The Wildcats' starters accounted for all but two of their points in the game.

Northern Michigan, now 5-9 (3-6 GLIAC), opens a season-long five-game home stand next week. The Wildcats take on Lake Superior State on Jan. 19 at 8 p.m. and Northwood on Jan. 21 at 1 p.m.