Courtesy of NMU Athletics
MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University men’s basketball team recently closed out the 2013-14 season and the first under head coach Bill Sall. The Wildcats finished with a record of 5-21 and 4-18 mark in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The season not only brought a new head coach, but also two fresh assistant coaches in William Hill and Charles Belt. The Wildcats welcomed 12 new recruits and returned three from the 2012-13 campaign.
“I look at the program and I see where it was on June 1 to where we were on October 15 to where we ended up, there was certainly an increased amount of improvement continuously,” said Sall. “We continued to improve and played some good basketball down the stretch, I was really happy with that development.”
The season opened with an exhibition loss (71-49) at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on Nov. 9. The following weekend, NMU traveled to Albion, Mich. for the Mike Turner Tip-Off Tournament where they went 1-1 on the weekend. The Wildcats defeated Mt. Vernon Nazareth (75-62) before falling to host Albion (83-76). On Nov. 18, NMU defeated Grace Bible, 90-72, in its first home game of the season.
Non-conference play closed out November with two losses at home against Southwest Minnesota State (68-53) and Lewis (78-68).
GLIAC play began on Dec. 5 as NMU hosted Walsh and was defeated, 95-66. The Wildcats saw three other losses to close out 2013 against Malone, Findlay and Hillsdale.
NMU started the New Year off on the right foot with back-to-back wins at home against Tiffin (72-57) and Ohio Dominican (75-52). Junior forward Justin Newell was named GLIAC North Division Player of the Week for his play against Tiffin and ODU.
Against Tiffin, Newell went 8-15 from the field, 4-6 from three-point range and 7-8 from the free throw line. He also had five rebounds, one steal and one assist in 35 minutes of action scoring a career high 27 points. Against Ohio Dominican, Newell went 5-12 from the floor, 3-6 from three-point range and 3-3 from the free throw line while recording five rebounds and an assist in 21 minutes of action while leading the squad with 16 points.
The following weekend, the Wildcats fell in two games on the road against Ashland (72-56) and Lake Erie (89-92).
Grand Valley visited the Berry Events Center on Jan. 16 where they took the game, 64-41. However, NMU bounced back on Saturday with a 61-59 win over Ferris State.
The Wildcats then saw a seven game losing streak against Wayne State, Lake Superior State, Northwood, Michigan Tech, Grand Valley State, Ferris State and twice against Saginaw Valley State.
NMU snapped the losing streak with a 74-66 win at home against Wayne State on February 15 at the Berry Events Center.
The season ended with three losses to Lake Superior State, Northwood and Michigan Tech.
Newell led the Wildcat offense, averaging 12.5 points per game in his first season with the squad. Newell appeared in 26 games, starting in 20. He scored double-figures 20 times, including his career high of 27 against Tiffin (Jan. 2).
Freshman guard Marcus Hall and junior guard Ethan Blackwell also averaged double-figures for the Wildcats. Hall averaged 11.4 points per game, ending the season with a field goal percentage of 42.1-percent. He appeared in all 26 games, starting in 25. He led the team in minutes played averaging 31.0 per contest. Blackwell averaged 10.0 per game in 26 games. He had a 40.2 field goal percentage and a 40.7 three-point percentage.
Junior forward Chavis Mattison led NMU in rebounding average pulling down 6.0 per game, while Brandon Havercamp added 4.2 a game.
At the end of the season, the Wildcats said farewell to their only senior on the team, Michael Smith. Smith was honored before the final home game on Feb. 27 against Michigan Tech. Smith appeared in 19 games this season including three starts.