MARQUETTE, Mich. — The Northern Michigan men's basketball team took GLIAC leader Ferris State to the wire Thursday night at the Berry Events Center, falling by a slim 86-80 margin.
The Wildcats and Bulldogs, who are currently riding an 11-game winning streak, were neck and neck until the final two minutes of the first half. In the early goings, the teams were tied five times. At both the 8:02 and 6:31 marks, Northern Michigan gained a one-point lead thanks to an emphatic Myles Howard dunk.
But Ferris State responded with an 11-0 run to build a 44-32 lead with 44 seconds left in the half. Isaiah Johnson snapped the run with a three-point shot with 15 seconds left to play, but Peter Firlik drained two free throws at the three-second mark to put Ferris State up, 46-35, going into the intermission.
The Bulldogs carried the momentum into the second half, building a game-best 18-point lead, at 61-43, by the 13:29 mark after Andrew Meacham took a feed from Drew Cushingberry and drained a three-point shot.
Echols responded with a three-point shot of his own just 15 seconds later. Then, Ian Hodges made a three-point shot at 12:48, Jordan Perez sank one at 12:12 and Echols made another at 11:25 to narrow the gap to 63-55.
By the 9:47 mark, the Wildcats had clawed back within two baskets, at 65-61, after stringing together a 6-0 run. From the 13:29 mark to the 9:47 mark, Northern Michigan outscored Ferris State, 18-4.
A Noah King tip in put the Bulldogs up, 67-61, with 9:33 left to play, but Echols drained another three-point shot at the 8:57 mark to draw the Wildcats within just three points. While they continued to battle the rest of the way, that was as close as they would come to evening the score.
Echols led all players with 21 points while fellow starters Johnson (12) and Perez (11) also scored in the double digits. Branstrom led the team with nine rebounds while Howard had a team-best three blocks.
Echols dished out a career-best nine assists while freshmen Howard (12) and Hodges (11) set new career highs in points. Hodges (7) and Howard (4) also set new career highs in rebounds.
Northern Michigan shot 40.0 percent from the floor, 28.1 from three and 91.7 from the charity stripe. The Wildcats scored 17 points off of offensive rebounds and 11 off of turnovers. They were outscored in the paint, 52-32.
Northern Michigan, now 6-11 (4-8 GLIAC), returns to action at the Berry Events Center on Saturday, facing off against Grand Valley State at 3 p.m.