HOUGHTON, Mich. -- Sophomore Will Carius (Bettendorf, Iowa/Pleasant Valley) hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to defeat Lewis University 79-78 in the Northern Michigan University Men's Basketball Team's season opener.
Down two with four seconds remaining, junior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) found Carius behind the three-point line, giving the Wildcats the win in their first game of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference/Great Lakes Valley Conference Challenge.
Sophomore Sam Taylor (Chicago, Ill./Thornton) led all scorers with 25 points, hitting five three-pointers and going 8 of 11 from the free throw line. Junior Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) added 20 points. Senior Eddie Tornes (Muskegon, Mich./Cumberland CC) chipped in with 12 points.
Echols notched eight assists on the night, and finished with five rebounds. Sophomore Myles Howard (Chicago, Ill./Marian Catholic) led the team with six boards.
NMU took an early lead, leading 6-1 five minutes into the game. The Flyers responded and took a 7-6 lead at 13:38, but Tornes answered with two free throws to give NMU back the lead.
Lewis eventually powered to an 18-9 lead, with the nine-point lead continuing until 22-13 at the 9:27 mark. The Wildcats continued to chip away at the lead, and took a 32-30 lead with just under five minutes to go in the opening half. The two teams exchanged leads the remainder of the half, with the Wildcats holding the largest lead, 41-36 with 2:28 to go.
The two teams continued their fight, with the Flyers hitting a free throw with five seconds remaining in the first half to send the game into halftime tied at 44-44.
Tornes opened the second half with a layup, and a Carius three moved the Wildcats ahead 49-44. After Lewis narrowed the gap to just one point, the Wildcats again pushed back up five, leading 55-50 with 14:01 to go in the game.
The teams continued to battle back and forth, with the Flyers eventually taking a lead, but NMU answered once again. With 6:49 to go, Johnson knocked in a jumper to give the Wildcats a 65-64 lead.
Lewis answered to re-take the lead, and eventually pulled ahead 73-69 with 2:23 left in the final frame. Down four, Taylor made two free throws and Johnson followed with a three-pointer to give NMU back the lead, 74-73 with 1:10 remaining.
The Flyers then claimed the lead back, 75-74 on a made jumper with 44 seconds to go, forcing an NMU timeout. Out of the break, Taylor was fouled and made both attempts at the charity stripe to give the Wildcats a 76-75 advantage with just 24 seconds left.
With 13 seconds to go, Lewis chipped in a layup to take the lead by one, and a free throw gave them the lead with four seconds remaining in the game.
On the ensure play after the Lewis timeout, Echols hit Carius for the game-winning three, giving the Wildcats a 79-78 victory.
NMU defeated Lewis for the first time since the 1998-99 season where they defeated the Flyers in the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Regional. The Wildcats return to action Sunday as they take on University of Wisconsin Parkside in their second game of the GLIAC/GLVC Challenge at Michigan Technological University.