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Wednesday April 24, 2024
Northern Basketball Grinds Past Bay In Exhibition

Click the AUDIO buttons to hear comments from both coaches.

The Northern Michigan University and Bay College men's basketball teams met Sunday afternoon in a friendly exhibition game as the regular season approaches in a couple of weeks. And when it was over, one of the coaches left the Berry Events Center more pleased than the other, and it wasn't the coach of the winning team.


Northern Michigan fended off Bay College, 91-83, as Dylan Kuehl scored a game-high 30 points for NMU on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor and 12-of-16 shooting at the free throw line.


But NMU Coach Matt Majkrzak was upset with his team's performance after his team trailed the JUCO team by two at halftime, and by five points early in the second half, and never could establish dominance the entire game.


“They're a really good Division Two junior college team,” Majkrzak told RRN's Casey Ford. “I've coached at that level, and that's about as good a team as you'll see. But we don't play at that level. I was very, very disappointed with how we played tonight.”


Majkrzak was just getting started.


“I thought it was unacceptable, a lot of the stuff that occurred out there, offensively moreso than defensively. But, offensively, I mean, we have to be good enough, and they guarded us similar to the ways teams in our league are going to guard us. They were physical, pressuring us, and we just couldn't handle it at all.”


Not soothing words for a team that won the GLIAC championship last year and made a run in the NCAA-II tournament. But it should be noted, too, that perhaps the top two point guards in the league, Bryan Parzych and Max Weisbrod, did not play for NMU.

“They're both special, and that will fix a lot,” Majkrzak said, but then added, emphatically, “are we just sitting around waiting for that and hoping? Or are the guys who played tonight trying to do something individually to get better? So that we don't need those guys and that it's not a 'wait-around-for-those-guys' mentality?”


Bay College, an NJCAA school in Escanaba, is also coming off its best-ever season in its seven-year history. But many of the key players off of that Norse team either graduated or chose to go elsewhere in the off-season, leaving Coach Matt Johnson with a lot of rookies. Those rookies, though, played at a high level in their high schools, and Johnson believes this Norse team may be his best ever.


“We competed, we battled, and I think we made life difficult for Northern in a lot of different areas,” Johnson said. “For us, there's a lot of positives to take from it. We're not going to play teams that are sophomore, junior, and senior heavy like Northern Michigan is. So, if we can compete at this level with a very, very good Northern Michigan team, we've got teams in our league that we should be able to beat. We've got to learn from it, and we've got to tighten up some stuff. We showed we can compete with anybody.”


Two of the few Norse returners still on the roster, sophomores Baril Mawo and Genesis Kemp, both showed that they belonged. Mawo scored 16 points and Kemp added 15 for the Norse. Mawo made five of his eight field goal attempts and all four of his free throws, and Kemp went 4-of-6 from the floor and 5-of-6 from the line.


“Both of those guys are second year college basketball players,” Johnson said. “I think that makes a difference. They weren't scared. The environment didn't scare them. Going toe-to-toe with Northern Michigan didn't scare them.”

Ryan Sweeney, a newcomer to Bay, also scored 15 points.


“Ryan is just a really good basketball player, and I think he is a Northern Michigan University-level kid,” Johnson said. “He will have multiple Division Two offers when he leaves us.”


Kuehl turned out to be a difference-maker for NMU, with a couple of slam dunks among his 30 points.


“I think he was awesome, and I wish we didn't need Dylan to be awesome in order to win tonight,” a still-upset Majkrzak said. “I wanted to play him 18, 20 minutes, get him in, get him out, get him a couple of dunks. Well, instead, we had to go to Dylan down the stretch to win. He delivered. One thing I like about Dylan is that he's not 'too cool' to do that and step up when he needs to. When it came to win, he said 'OK, I'll bail us out here'. And honestly, that's what happened.”


It was a game filled with fouls, with 57 personal fouls called in the game, leading to a combined 71 free throw attempts.


Northern Michigan got to the line twice as often as Bay College, with NMU getting 47 charity shots (making only 31 of them; 66%). The Norse had 24 foul shots, and made 18 (75 %).


Bay had two players foul out (Mawo and Brian Gillespie), and five other players finish on the edge with four fouls apiece. Jackson Dudeck fouled out for NMU and Kuehl ended up with four.


The Wildcats out-rebounded the Norse, 35-24, with Sam Schultz getting ten boards for NMU.

Bay College will try its luck against another larger school, Michigan Tech, in another exhibition game in Houghton next Sunday.


NMU will officially open its season at a tournament in Texas November 4-5.


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