NMU men’s basketball team survives Lake Erie pressure

MARQUETTE – He wasn’t the star of the game, though he set several career marks Saturday.

But what sophomore Spencer Huss brought to the table epitomized what Northern Michigan University men’s basketball coach Doug Lewis was looking for in a GLIAC game against Lake Erie College at the Berry Events Center.

“Coach said he wanted me for my defense and how well I can take care of the ball,” Huss said in the aftermath of the Wildcats’ 66-52 victory over the Storm.

NMU (5-6 overall, 2-5 in the GLIAC) mostly played a conventional, straight-up defense while Lake Erie tried to pressure at every available opportunity, whether it was inbounding the ball, in the backcourt or around the perimeter.

The game came down to a matter of which team could impose its will upon the other.

“Defensively, they’re a very aggressive team,” Lewis said, “and that’s been one of our weaknesses, turning the ball over.

“But today, we were able to control the tempo. They wanted an up-tempo game, while we wanted to stay in a half-court game.

“Our guys played good defense and a solid offense. That’s how we were able to get this win.”

Huss, once named defensive player of the year in the Great Northern Conference while playing at Marquette Senior High School, equaled a career high with 19 minutes played and set career marks with seven rebounds and three free throws made.

Despite playing in a 6-foot, 180-pound guard’s body, he was the game’s top rebounder. He also finished with three points, two assists and no turnovers.

Leading NMU in scoring was sophomore point guard Quinten Calloway with 16 points while being guarded by Storm junior Tom Parker, who Lewis called “one of the best defenders in the GLIAC.”

Calloway also had five rebounds, though he turned the ball over eight times, in part because of Parker’s four steals.

The two were seen jostling for position on multiple occasions, with Parker literally hanging on Calloway when NMU tried to inbound the ball.

Just 95 seconds into a still-scoreless game, Calloway broke free of Parker during a scramble for an offensive rebound, ran nearly to midcourt before taking a pass and sinking a 3-pointer.

Lake Erie never caught up, pulling within 3-2 and 5-4 a few minutes later before the Wildcats extended the advantage to 13-4 on a basket and three free throws by junior Michael Smith and another 3 by Calloway.

The Storm made one more run before Northern finished the half on a 10-1 run to take a 28-16 advantage at the break.

While the Wildcats’ lead stayed in double digits most of the second half, Lake Erie pulled as close as six points, 49-43, with 7:49 to play.

NMU also got 14 points from junior Matt Craggs, 12 points and four assists from senior TJ Cameron and 10 points from junior Scooter Johnson.

For Lake Erie (3-9, 2-6), junior Riley Thomas was the only player to score in double digits with 17 points.

“It’s been a frustrating season up to this point with seven of 10 games on the road,” Lewis said.

“But now we start to get to our stretch of home games.”

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net