MARQUETTE - Having beaten Northern Michigan four straight times - including a 109-point outburst two seasons ago - and with the Wildcats derailed by injuries leading to a 3-11 conference mark this year, Michigan Tech coach Kevin Luke was worried the intensity level for his team was not where it should be in the practices leading up to the road rivalry game.
He was correct.
The Wildcats jumped out to a nine-point lead early Saturday and never let Ali Haidar get going to hold off the Huskies for a 59-55 win at the Berry Events Center.
Michigan Tech’s Ali Haidar tries to dribble through a pair of defenders during Saturday’s game against Northern Michigan at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (DMG photo by Meagan Stilp)
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Tech and dropped them into a tie for third in the GLIAC North Division.
"I'm disappointed," Luke said. "Northern Michigan played in a rivalry game like it was a rivalry game and I don't think we did. That is my fault and that is our players' fault.
"We have a tendency after we have won a couple in a row to think we are there - and we are not, obviously.
"It is just disappointing when you have a head of steam, and you are in it still for the conference and these games show what your character is, and I don't think ours was very good today."
That lack of readiness was most evident as Wildcats grabbed a 12-3 lead in the first four minutes of play with a pair of three-pointers and trio of layups as the Tech defense looked slow getting out to shooters.
Luke called a timeout to try and inject some life into his team - never a good sign against your biggest rivals.
"If you have to call a timeout in this game to try and get energy up, you are in trouble," Luke said. "And that is what happened. They played like it was a rivalry game and we didn't. It is that simple."