Bjorklund Powers NMU to Century Mark in Season-Opening Victory
After the first half that saw NMU was ahead 54-44 with 24 points from Bjorklund, the Bearcats hung tight, closing the game to as little as two points in the second half.
MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The Northern Michigan University men’s basketball team started the season clicking on the offensive end, reaching the century mark in the opener behind 38 points from senior guard Max Bjorklund in a 100-93 win over McKendree on Saturday. After a first half that saw NMU ahead 54-44 and 24 points from Bjorklund, the Bearcats hung tight, closing the game to as little as two points in the second half. The Wildcats stood their ground, hitting free throws and halting runs with drives to the basket late for the 100-93 win. The 38 points from Max Bjorklund is the second-best mark in his career, as he continues right where he left off to end last season. He also paced the ‘Cats with seven rebounds in the contest.
McKendree put the ball in the hoop on the game’s opening possession and Carson Smith had the answer with a hook shot for the first NMU points of the season. New to the starting lineup, Dylan Kuehl followed it up with a two-handed flush, showcasing his athleticism early. After a Bearcats run, Sam Schultz found Carson Smith with a back door cut, converting on the lay-in as NMU trailed 13-8 at the first media timeout. Out of that timeout break, the GLIAC Preseason Player of the Year Max Bjorklund connected from downtown for his first hoop. He then hit a turnaround jumper in the paint for a quick five points. The wealth was being spread early, as Kuehl stuffed home his second dunk of the afternoon followed by a Brian Parzych and-one and a triple for freshman Max Weisbrod for his first career points as part of a small Wildcat run to pull within a possession at 25-23.
After a McKendree three put them ahead 28-23, NMU went on a 20-3 tear, as Max Weisbrod hit another three to begin the run, Max Bjorklund hit a series of impressive shots down low and in the mid-range, and Najashi Tolefree hit his first collegiate points in downtown variety to cap off the run, leading to a Bearcat timeout. NMU led 43-31 with 4:10 to go in the half. As the final minute approached, Bjorklund hit another triple to beat the shot clock buzzer in front of the opposing bench. He eclipsed 20 points at the charity stripe on the next trip down the floor as NMU went ahead 51-40. Each side hit highly-contested threes in the final 10 seconds, as Bjorklund got the ball over a hand in the face and into the net and the Bearcats were able to push the ball down the floor for the answer before halftime. NMU led 54-44 after 20 minutes. Max Bjorklund surged to 24 points in the half on 9-15 shooting (3-6 from three). NMU was collectively crashing the glass, as seven Wildcats pulled down multiple rebounds.
To open the half, Dylan Kuehl found Brian Parzych for a wide-open layup to open the second half scoring. Kuehl then got points himself on the next possession, double-clutching a bank shot off the window. Max Bjorklund carried over his hot first half into the second with a corner three to put NMU ahead by 15. Newly inserted Sam Privet also hit a three before the first media timeout approached. NMU was up 66-50. The Bearcats did not go away easily, as their two leading scorers, Milos Vicentic and Bryson Bultman, helped string together a 9-0 run to pull within seven. Brian Parzych halted that run from the free-throw line and transfer Diego Robinson got his first hoop down low as NMU maintained a nine-point cushion at 70-61 with 12 minutes to go.
McKendree continued to chip away at Northern’s lead, as Hayden Meakes hit a couple of threes to get within four at the under-eight media timeout. NMU remained up 79-75. After getting it to two at 79-77, Carson Smith responded with free throws and a lay up off the window on a feed from Parzych to go up 83-77 with 4:41 on the clock. The sides exchanged blows over the next minute plus, as Bjorklund got to 31 points on a contested drive to the hoop and then took a charge on the defensive end as NMU maintained a six-point edge with 3:11 to go. Out of a timeout, he then crossed up the defense and converted on an impressive and-one to get to 34 points. The Bearcats answered with an and-one of their own to get it back to six with 2:30 to go. Max Bjorklund was clutch from the free-throw line down and Justin Kuehl hit a pair to hit the century mark for the final points.
Northern Michigan will be back in the SDC Gymnasium in Houghton tomorrow as they face Lewis University at noon.
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