MARQUETTE, Mich. – Northern Michigan University's Men's Basketball Team took on Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foe Saginaw Valley State University and came away with an 86-69 victory on Gene Summers Appreciation Day. The 2-0 GLIAC start is their best since the 2014-15 season when they started 3-0.
Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) scored a career-high 29 points and led the Wildcats with nine rebounds. Junior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) sank four three-pointers to total 21 points and tied with sophomore Sam Taylor (Chicago, Ill./Thornton) with three assists.
Taylor scored first and the Wildcats built up an 11-2 early lead. Sophomore Will Carius (Bettendorf, Iowa/Pleasant Valley) tipped in a Johnson miss before SVSU scored their first basket. Taylor answered with a layup, then he and Johnson both hit a jumper. Freshman Dolapo Olayinka (Chicago, Ill./Mather) hit a free throw before a Cardinals three-pointer to see the score 11-5 with 13:57 to go in the first half.
SVSU fought back and claimed an 18-17 lead with just over nine minutes left in the first, but NMU responded with a 13-0 run over the next four minutes. Johnson started the run with a three-pointer on a pass from Echols. He then added another jumper. Carius knocked in a free throw, which Johnson followed with another made jump shot, then another tip-in. Senior Eddie Tornes (Muskegon, Mich./Cumberland CC) added a layup before the guests were able to score and end the run.
NMU would go up 33-21 with 3:04 to go and ended the half on a 6-0 run. Another tip-in, this time by junior Max Prendergast (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids West Catholic) was followed by a jumper by Tornes. Prendergast ended the half with two free throws to put the Wildcats ahead 39-21 at the half.
Johnson opened the second half with a three pointer, then a jumper by Echols was followed by an SVSU basket. Sophomore Myles Howard (Chicago, Ill./Marian Catholic) answered with a dunk and the hosts were up 46-23.
Tornes put the Wildcats ahead by as much as 28 points five minutes into the second half before the Cardinals rallied to reduce the NMU lead to 73-58 with 4:30 remaining in the game. An old-fashioned three-pointer by Echols ended the SVSU run and the Wildcats were ahead by 23 soon after. In the final minutes, the Cardinals chipped away but were unable to get closer than 15 points and NMU came away with the 86-69 victory.
Former NMU standout and 1977 Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Gene Summers, was recognized at halftime of the game. Summers is just one of two former players with his number retired and holds the score record with 50 points in a victory over Michigan Technological University. During his two seasons, he averaged over 28 points a game before being drafted by the Chicago Bulls.
With the win, the Wildcats improve to 5-0 on the season and 2-0 in the GLIAC. Saginaw Valley fell to 2-5 overall, 0-2 in GLIAC play. NMU will step onto the court again Thursday when they visit Purdue Northwest.