Northern Michigan men unable to overcome Husky hangover against Grand Valley State

MARQUETTE – To Doug Lewis, it might’ve seemed like three basketball teams were on the floor at the Berry Events Center on Thursday evening.

And to the Northern Michigan University men’s basketball coach, it must have felt like his Wildcats finished in third place.

In reality, Northern lost 64-56 to Grand Valley State following a seven-minute scoring drought in the middle of the second half.

Lewis placed blame elsewhere, with thoughts of Michigan Tech in the forefront of his players’ minds on Thursday.

“It started in practice (Wednesday), when we didn’t have the focus and we didn’t have the energy,” he said. “And we didn’t have focus or energy tonight, either.

“It seems like everyone thought we won the national championship when we beat Michigan Tech (on Saturday), and we could just show up and get a win.”

The Wildcats certainly had cause to celebrate that victory, their first over MTU in Lewis’ three years at the helm. But it has been Northern’s only victory in their last eight games, all against GLIAC foes.

“We’re not good enough to be thinking that way, and besides, the GLIAC is the best (NCAA Division II) conference in the country,” Lewis said. “It’s like the Big East (in Division I). Anybody can beat anybody else on any given night.”

Grand Valley certainly was not a team to be lightly regarded, as the Lakers entered Thursday with the second-best record in the conference behind Wayne State. The Lakers leave Marquette at 12-4 in the GLIAC and 15-5 overall.

Northern fell to 4-12 and 5-15, the third-worst mark in the conference and last place in the North Division.

Lewis was particularly dismayed at his starting guards’ paltry numbers – sophomore Quinten Calloway and freshman Stephen Pelkofer combined to make 2 of 10 shots while committing nine turnovers and making no steals.

On more than a few occasions, GVSU was able to swipe or knock the ball away for a clean steal from a number of Northern players while they were just holding it or dribbling it.

“You’ve got to be focused every night you play in the GLIAC,” Lewis said.

Nevertheless, the teams traded leads for the first 10 minutes before the Lakers went ahead for good. But Northern trailed just 30-29 at halftime as GVSU never built a lead bigger than seven points before the Wildcats’ scoring drought set in.

Trailing 38-34 after Calloway hit a 3-pointer with 15:34 left, Northern didn’t score again until junior Scooter Johnson made 1 of 2 free throws with 8:15 to go.

By then, NMU’s deficit had ballooned to 50-35. During the drought, the Wildcats missed three layups, three triples and had the ball stolen twice.

GVSU bumped the lead to as many as 20 points before Northern finished on a 9-1 run on the strength of two 3s by senior TJ Cameron and another by sophomore Spencer Huss of Marquette.

Cameron led all scorers with 16 points, while Johnson had 12. Sophomore teammate Kendall Jackson led all rebounders with six.

GVSU’s Ricardo Carbajal scored 15 points and Tyrone Lee had 10.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.