MARQUETTE, Mich. – After a slow start being down by as many as 18 to Minnesota Crookston in the first half, the Wildcats dropped 70 points in the final 22:50 of the game including 59 second-half points for an exciting 97-81 win in the 2022-23 home opener.
Brian Parzych hit a career-high 30 points, shooting 10-16 (62.5%) from the field and 6-9 (66.7%) from deep. He added 4 assists, 3 steals, and 3 rebounds. Max Bjorklund matched it with another 30 for two standout NMU performances. Bjorklund was 11-18 (61.1%) from the floor including 4-6 (66.7%) from downtown and added 4 rebounds and a pair of assists.
The Wildcats are now 3-0 on the season. NMU hit 13 triples on the night, with 11 coming in the second half.
The Golden Eagles proved to be a force in the paint early, converting on four baskets down low in the first four minutes. The ‘Cats struggled to find much offense from the start, but a Diego Robinson hoop down low and a Max Bjorklund smooth up-and-under and-one kept NMU within a possession at 8-5 at the first media timeout.
As the reserves came in, Justin Kuehl immediately made an impact, going coast-to-coast for a hoop and following up a missed shot with a putback. He then drove and dished off for a corner feed to Sam Privet for a triple, giving NMU their first lead at 12-11 seven minutes in. Najashi Tolefree then converted another and-one as the Wildcat bench came in and turned the tides.
As NMU’s offense went stagnant, the Golden Eagles were able to take advantage backed by two triples from Rambo Badyal and one from Matthew Allman to quickly stretch their lead to 32-20 with 6:33 to go in the opening half, leading to an NMU timeout.
That timeout didn’t stop Crookston’s rhythm, as they added another quick six to push the game to 38-20. NMU was finally able to halt the 13-0 run when Bjorklund and Dylan Kuehl each got to the line for a pair. NMU’s deficit was 40-24 with 3:42 to go.
A Bjorklund and Parzych-led run to close the half pulled the Wildcats all the way back within five at 43-38. In the closing 14-3 stretch, Bjorklund and Parzych each had five points. Bjorklund had 12 points in the half to lead the Wildcats. NMU shot 40.6% from the floor while Crookston shot 60%.
After a Dylan Kuehl and-one and two-handed slam, the Wildcats got even at 43 all early in the half. Brian Parzych then got two hoops of his own, but the Eagles’ offense continued to hit contested shots as they maintained a slim 54-49 lead with 15:55 to go.
A series of NMU triples from Parzych, Bjorklund, Weisbrod, and Bjorklund again kept NMU close, but foul trouble in the half was a glaring issue, as Crookston hit the bonus with nearly 14 minutes to go in the half. NMU’s deficit was 65-63 with 11:18 to go.
Carson Smith got his first scratch from downtown out of the media timeout, followed by a left-handed drive to the basket for Bjorklund, another Smith bucket, and a Parzych three as NMU’s offense really began to get it going. They jumped ahead 73-67 with 9:10 to go.
Bjorklund continued his heater, hitting another highly-contested three out of the timeout to get the Wildcats up by nine. It was canceled out on the other end as the shooting on each end came to life. NMU was up 76-70 with 7:17 to go.
As hot from the field as Bjorklund was, Parzych was just as sizzling, hitting another pair of triples, bringing his collection to 26. A Bjorklund dangle and three from the top of the key got his total to 26 right after. NMU was up 85-72 with 5:14 to go. But it didn’t take long for Parzych to get another, as he was 6-7 from deep.
NMU went on their way to 59 second-half points and a 97-81. Backed by 11 triples, the Wildcats shot 61.1% from deep in the half and 62.9% from the field.
- Brian Parzych and Max Bjorklund each dropped 30 points. Parzych hit a career-high with his 30, shooting 10-16 (62.5%) from the field and 6-9 (66.7%) from deep. Bjorklund was 11-18 (61.1%) from the floor including 4-6 (66.7%) from downtown.
- Dylan Kuehl added 15 points on 5-8 shooting.
- Carson Smith put together 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals.
NMU will hit the Berry Event Center hardwood again tomorrow night, as they will take on Concordia-St. Paul at 7 p.m.