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Saturday June 15, 2019
STIFF CHALLENGE: Wildcats Battle #1 Bellarmine

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Northern Michigan University Men's Basketball team wrapped up the 2018 season of their schedule with #1 Bellarmine University and forced the closest game the Knights have played this season, but ultimately fell 84-75 

Senior Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) made six three-pointers and paced the Wildcats with 25 points. He also had four rebounds and four assists.  Senior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn.)finished with 19 points, making four threes. Sophomore Alec Fruin (Beloit, Wis.) chipped in with 10 points.

As a team, NMU finished the game with 13 total threes and was 50% from behind the arc. Despite the loss, NMU stayed close as it was the first game of the season Bellarmine won be single digits, as the Knights entered the game with a margin of victory at nearly 20 points.

The Knights scored first but Johnson followed with a four-point play, hitting a three-pointer and then the free throw after he was fouled on the shot.  The hosts tied it but junior Kenton Mack (Algonquin, Ill.) made a layup and Echols made a three to push NMU ahead 9-4.

BU made a layup before a Johnson layup, then he answered a Knights three with one of his own from behind the arc. After another Bellarmine layup, Taylor made a three to make it 17-11 at the 14:37 mark.

Johnson made it 19-11 with a basket but BU responded with two baskets before Fruin sank a three, making the score 22-15 with 11 minutes to play in the half.  The Knights then pulled within 22-21 when Fruin made another three to make it 25-21 with 9:15 on the clock. 

The Knights would take a 27-25 lead but junior Marcus Matelski (Boyne Falls, Mich.) hit a three-pointer to get NMU back on top.  The hosts answered to take a 32-28 lead before Echols made back to back threes to put NMU up 34-32 with three minutes in the half.

Bellarmine followed with two baskets but Johnson made the teams tenth three of the first half with 47 seconds left.  However, Bellarmine scored on their next possession to close out the half with the #1 Knights leading 38-37.

Out of the break, BU scored first but Howard answered with a free throw.  After another BU layup, Johnson sank two free throws. The Knights answered and pulled ahead 50-40 before Taylor made a three to make it 50-43 with 15:28 on the clock.

The Knights responded with a jumper before Johnson sank two free throws.  The teams then exchanged three-pointers but BU added a layup to make it 57-50 with 12:40 to play.  Freshman Naseer Turner (Chicago, Ill.) had a layup then a dunk from junior Myles Howard (Chicago, Ill.) pulled NMU within five, 57-52 with under 11 minutes to play.

BU answered with a three which Johnson followed with two free throws. The Knights then went for a layup which Echols answered with two free throws himself.  Johnson added two free throws but a BU free throw made it 65-58 at the 7:19 mark.

Fruin put in two free throws which BU followed with two for the Knights. Echols responded with a jumper but the Knights made two layups to make it 71-62 with 4:31 to play.

Taylor answered with a layup before the Knights came down and scored a three and two layups before Echols stopped the run with a two free throws. The Knights and Echols then exchanged free throws until Johnson hit a three with 15 seconds left to make it 82-73.  BU added two free throws and Fruin hit a jumper in the closing seconds for the 84-75 final.

The Wildcats fall to 8-3 on the season while the #1 ranked Knights improved to 9-0. NMU will return to action as they travel to Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference foe Wayne State University on Thursday, January 3.

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