Marquette, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's basketball squad battled back from a 10-point deficit with 10 minutes to play, but an offensive putback by Northern Michigan with 10.7 seconds remaining lifted the Wildcats to a hard-fought 61-59 win over the Bulldogs inside the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
The Wildcats' Chavis Mattison came up with an offensive board following an errant miss with the score tied down the stretch and was able to convert inside to give Northern Michigan the lead with just less than 11 seconds to go. Ferris State pushed the ball the other way, however a contested shot in the paint from junior guard Dietrich Lever came up short and Northern Michigan batted the ball away as time expired to preserve the win.
The setback for the Bulldogs came in the first of two meetings this season against Northern Michigan, which is guided by first-year head coach Bill Sall, who previously spent the last 11 years at Ferris State. First-year FSU head coach Andy Bronkema was on Sall's staff for six years, including three years as the top assistant before replacing him at the Bulldog helm.
On an emotional day at the Berry Events Center, both teams struggled to get into a rythem offensively at various stages of the game. Northern Michigan shot 43.4% overall and limited FSU to a 36.2% figure while running a zone defensively most of the way.
Junior guard Matt Poches led the Bulldogs with 17 points and hit a trio of three-pointers against the Wildcats' 2-3 zone, but was the lone FSU player to reach double-digit scoring. Lever and sophomore forward Milton Cribbs each added nine points apiece for the Bulldogs, who played for the second-straight contest minus starting sophomore forward Josh Fleming due to injury.
Northern Michigan jumped out to an early eight-point lead at 12-4 before Ferris State tied the game up with 7:22 remaining in the first half. After NMU pushed the advantage back to six points, the Bulldogs battled back and took a one-point advantage with a minute remaining in the half before a three-pointer from NMU guard Marcus Hall gave the Wildcats a two-point lead at the break.
The Wildcats started the second period on a 18-10 run to push the margin to 10 points with 10:30 remaining, but the Bulldogs rallied. FSU cut the advantage back to a single point with 6:27 left after scoring nine-straight. Then, after the Wildcats pushed the margin back to four, Ferris State eventually tied up the game on a three-pointer from sophomore guard Jibreel Jackson with three minutes to play.
The two teams then traded baskets and FSU answered a second Northern Michigan bucket with two made free throws from Lever with 44 seconds to play before the Wildcats ran the clock down and Mattison was able to finish on the go-ahead bucket rebounded on a missed three-pointer from Ethan Blackwell.
Hall led the Wildcats with a game-high tying 17 points on six-of-10 shooting while Mattison produced a double-double effort with 13 points and 11 boards. Justin Newell also contributed 10 points for Northern Michigan.
Ferris State held a decided advantage on the boards with a 41-33 rebounding edge, which included 19 offensive boards to 11 for the hosts. Cribbs had six of the Bulldogs offensive boards and finished with a team-best nine rebounds while Poches added eight for the game. Sophomore center Jared Stolicker contributed six points and seven boards with three blocked shots.
FSU hit seven-of-14 (50%) three's and made 10-of-15 (66.7%) free throws with the Wildcats connecting on eight-of-14 (57.1%) long-range attempts in addition to a seven-of-11 (63.6%) showing at the line.
Both teams turned the ball over eight times each although FSU posted a 12-10 difference in points off turnovers. The Wildcats though owned a slim 14-11 edge in second chance production, including the game-winner from Mattison.
Overall, Ferris State finished with 11 assists, six blocked shots and three steals while the Wildcats netted 16 assists, four blocks and three thefts for the day. Both Lever and junior guard Drew Lehman paced FSU with three assists each while Ethan Blackwell totaled a game-high seven assists on the Northern Michigan side to go with seven points and a contest-best two steals.
Off the bench, Northern Michigan received 23 points to only 13 for the Bulldogs, but FSU outscored NMU 24-18 in the paint.
Ferris State had won 21 of the last 24 meetings against the Wildcats prior to the setback and had claimed 11 wins over NMU in a row entering the game. The two teams will meet again on Feb. 8 in Big Rapids as Sall makes his first return visit to Jim Wink Arena.
The Bulldogs fell to 6-8 overall and 5-5 in GLIAC play with the loss. Meanwhile, NMU improved to 4-10 overall and 3-7 in the GLIAC, but has now split its last six contests this season.
Ferris State will return home to play three of its next four outings inside Wink Arena starting against Northwood next Thursday (Jan. 23) evening in Big Rapids. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. (ET). FSU then hosts GLIAC North Division leader Lake Superior State on Saturday (Jan. 25) in afternoon action beginning at 3 p.m. (ET).