Northern Michigan men’s basketball team overcomes another setback, tops Ashland to open 2013

MARQUETTE – No Terry Nash, no problem.

In 2012, that statement seemed laughable for the Northern Michigan University men’s basketball team since it only won two games with its starting point guard sidelined with an injury.

“No Nash, no problem” wasn’t a joke on Thursday, however, as the Wildcats posted their third win of the season and second in GLIAC play via a 73-66 triumph over Ashland at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.

Four Wildcats (3-8 overall, 2-6 in GLIAC) scored in double figures to open 2013, including Nash’s understudy and replacement in 2011-12, sophomore Quinten Calloway.

Along with sophomore forward Kendall Jackson, Calloway posted a team-high 15 points. More importantly, the quarterback of the NMU offense only turned the ball over twice and as a team, NMU only gave up nine balls to the Eagles (4-6, 2-5).

“We just have to take care of the ball,” Calloway said. “Terry would be in there helping us take care of the ball, but I have to step up and do it myself.”

NMU head coach Doug Lewis announced Wednesday night via Twitter (@coachlew12) Nash was done for the season with a fractured foot.

After redshirting a year ago, this season Nash appeared in three games before going down after a loss on Nov. 24 against Lincoln (Pa.). Nash made a short-lived return on Dec. 30 against Lewis at less than 100 percent and turned the ball over 12 times.

“That’s the part of basketball. The next guy has to step up,” Lewis said. “(Calloway) is a sophomore, but he’s not a rookie. He was in this situation last year. Now he knows he’s going to have to play 30 minutes a night and he did a good job.”

Joining Calloway and Jackson in double figures Thursday was freshman guard Stephan Pelkofer, who totaled 14 points, and junior forward Matthew Craggs, who finished with 13.

Jackson, Calloway and Pelkofer were each perfect from the free throw line – Jackson was 6 of 6 while Calloway and Pelkofer were 4 of 4. As a team, Northern hit 22 of 26 free throws to go with a 48.9 percent shooting performance from the field.

“We’re moving the ball more than we usually do,” Craggs said. “Coach is preaching us to move the ball quickly, and then inside-out instead of outside-in to get so we get high-percentage shots.”

Moving the ball with ease on the offensive end, Ashland jumped out to a 7-0 lead before the Wildcats got settled.

Northern took a 23-21 lead on a layup by Jackson with 6:26 left in the first half and held a 32-31 advantage at intermission.

The closest the Eagles came to the ‘Cats in the second half was three points with 4:23 to play; however, a jumper by Jackson, free throw by junior Michael Smith and a pair of free throws by Calloway shut down that rally.

“They came out with a lot of energy and we didn’t match it right away,” Craggs said. “We eventually matched their energy and just started slowing them down. It helped us get into position.”

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.