Northern Michigan men can’t climb out of early hole against Ferris State

MARQUETTE – Depth at the point guard position went from being thin at the beginning of the year to nonexistent for the Northern Michigan University men’s basketball team after sophomore Quinten Calloway suffered a concussion during Thursday’s loss to Grand Valley State at the Berry Events Center.

Without Calloway and redshirt freshman Terry Nash, who suffered a season-ending foot injury in December, the Wildcats had a hard time getting into their offense during a 69-63 loss to Ferris State at the BEC during Saturday’s Pink Wave to benefit the Marquette Cancer Center.

“It’s like a quarterback,” head coach Doug Lewis said. “You take a starting quarterback off of any good football team, who is going to receive the ball? The point guard is the quarterback on the team so without him, you can’t get guys the ball in the right position.”

With senior forward TJ Cameron running the point, the Wildcats managed to limit their turnovers to 11, but according to Lewis, the floor general’s importance goes beyond statistics.

“A lot of things with the point guard position are unseen as far as what they contribute to the team,” Lewis said. “Getting people in their spots, being the vocal leader on the floor, being the coach on the floor, and those are some of the things we missed tonight. We were unorganized getting guys in spots.”

The lack of offensive leadership showed early as NMU (4-13 GLIAC, 5-16 overall) was held scoreless for the first five minutes of play while the Bulldogs built an 11-0 lead.

On the other side of the ball, Ferris State’s trio of guards combined for 47 of the team’s 69 points, while only committing two turnovers.

“We just couldn’t handle their guards,” Lewis said. “They’ve got three of the better guards in the conference and we couldn’t defend them. Even when we went zone, they set ball screens and their guards got in the lane.”

After falling behind early, the ‘Cats clawed their way back into the game. NMU kept the deficit in single digits for the majority of the second half, even cutting the Ferris State lead to four with 31 seconds left.

The Bulldogs ended any hopes of a Wildcat comeback in the final minutes as guard Drew Lehman converted four free throws in the final 20 seconds. Ferris as a whole hit 20 of 23 from the free throw line.

“We got off to a slow start and we hung with them the whole game, but we just couldn’t close it out,” freshman guard Stephen Pelkofer said. “I think it’s just getting defensive stops at the end of the game. We kept trading baskets the last 10 minutes of the game.”

NMU shot 55 percent from the field, 12 percent higher than Ferris State. The Wildcats outrebounded the Bulldogs as well, 28-19. Lewis said the issue was how and when his team was able to score.

“When we did handle the pressure and got the ball inside, we were able to score,” Lewis said. “We shot 66 percent from the floor (second half), so that wasn’t our problem. Our problem was when the game got kind of tight, there was times when we couldn’t make runs and we couldn’t make stops and that’s the name of the game. We’ve got to get stops.”