Sometimes, one shot makes all the difference.
Cody Dennison, like his teammates, was having a tough night shooting. With TU clinging to a 53-50 lead with less than a minute to go, TU's Mike Boan flipped the ball out to Dennison, who was wide open on the left wing.
Dennison appeared to hesitate for an instant, perhaps because to that point, he'd made just 1 of 5 on 3's, and his team hadn't scored a basket in more than eight minutes.
But Dennison launched.
Joe Graessle, standing at the top of the key, raised his arms. He was certain the ball was going in.
Dennison wasn't so sure.
"The ones you think are going in, when you're in a slump, don't," said the Dragons point guard.
But in this case, it was Graessle who was right. The ball sailed through the net, and TU led 56-50 with 47 seconds left in regulation.
And just like that, the game essentially was over.
"It was a dagger," Graessle said of Dennison's shot. "The true definition of a dagger."
Northern Michigan's Quinten Calloway missed a 3. Jonathan Sutherlin, a Tiffin freshman, ended up wide open by the basket and converted an easy basket. After another fruitless NMU possession, Isaiah Twine punctuated a very good night for him with a dunk.
Suddenly, TU led 62-52 with 15 seconds left and ended up beating Northern Michigan, 62-55.
"Our execution was great at the end," said Graessle, who finished with a game-high 21 points.
Tiffin coach John Hill agreed, and said Tuesday was a big win for his program.
"You have to win at home in the GLIAC or you won't be a factor," Hill said. "At the end of the game we played with poise."
It wasn't a pretty game, as the Dragon scored on a layup by Graessle to lead 47-41 with 10:14 remaining. TU managed just six points, all on free throws, over the next eight and a half minutes. It allowed the Wildcats (2-7, 1-5) to take a brief 48-47 lead on a Matt Craggs layup with 7:47 left.
But the Wildcats were held to three points over the next six minutes.
For a while, it seemed like neither team could put the ball in the basket.
"I like to credit that to good defense," Graessle said.
The Dragons played plenty of man Tuesday night, and it was effective, as the Wildcats attempted only 20 shots in the second half. They made 10, but never appeared to get in any kind of a rhythm.
As for the Dragons, they got an offensive boost from Isaiah Twine, who came off the bench to score 14.
"I'm just staying with it, staying positive," said Twine, who has seen his minutes on the floor increase in recent games. "I'm working hard."
"That was (Twine's) best game overall," said Hill after TU improved to 4-6, 2-4. "He shot well, he defended very well. He played a very solid, very smart basketball game."
He wasn't the only one who impressed Hill. Sutherlin finished with eight points and a team-best six rebounds.
"He's a young player with great potential," Hill said.
Northern Michigan was led by Craggs, who had 18 points. Kendall Jackson had 11 rebounds for the Wildcats.
It was another big game for Graessle, who has scored at least 20 points in his last eight games. And it was a much-needed victory for TU.
"It was a great Christmas present for the coaches and the team," Hill said.