MARQUETTE - The Northern Michigan University women's basketball team not only finds itself in the midst of a four-game losing streak with three games to play, but on the outside looking in concerning the GLIAC Tournament picture.
Despite not winning a game since a Feb. 2 upset of Michigan Tech in Marquette, the Wildcats still control their own postseason destiny, though.
For head coach Troy Mattson, if his Wildcats win, they're in.
Northern Michigan University freshman Nea Makela looks to make a pass on Feb. 7 against Grand Valley State at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Makela leads NMU in rebounding, averaging 6.4 per game, heading into the Wildcats’ final home weekend of the 2012-13 season. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"We're basically in the playoffs right now," Mattson said. "We need to win to get in. The good thing is we have two home games. We play well at home. Our team feels confident playing at home."
If Northern wants to extend its 2012-13 season and return to the GLIAC Tournament, it must top Lake Superior State at 7:30 tonight and Northwood at 3 p.m. Saturday in the final weekend of basketball at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
LSSU (4-15 in GLIAC, 5-18 overall) has the second-worst record in the conference, though NMU (8-11, 11-12) only topped the rival Lakers by six, 58-52, in Sault Ste. Marie on Jan. 24.
"(LSSU) has played everybody tough. They're just having a tough time winning games," Mattson said.
Northwood (9-10, 11-14) leads the Wildcats by a game in the GLIAC standings after beating the 'Cats, 65-52, in Midland on Jan. 26.
The Timberwolves and Saginaw Valley State (9-10, 11-12) currently hold the final two spots in the GLIAC tournament, but must play each other on the final day of the regular season on March 2 in Midland.
NMU and Tiffin (8-11, 11-12) are tied for ninth overall in the league, though the Dragons beat the Wildcats 75-63 on Dec. 18 in Ohio.
Tiffin closes the year against Lake Erie College, Ashland and Ohio Dominican, while NMU wraps up the regular season on March 2 at Michigan Tech.
Northwood also has Tech on its schedule this weekend, while SVSU hosts Grand Valley State tonight and travels to Ferris State on Saturday.
The Cardinals topped the Wildcats a week ago downstate in overtime, 81-77, for a season split. It was the second of back-to-back OT losses NMU suffered in its four-game skid.
"We're out there with freshmen and sophomores and we haven't been in this situation before with this group," Mattson said. "You got two overtime losses, we led both games with a minute to go. We pull those games out and we're sitting in the playoffs already."
A pair of sophomore guards continue to lead Northern in scoring with Alyssa Colla averaging 13.2 points per game and Lauren Gruber 12 per contest.
Freshman Nea Makela leads the 'Cats in rebounding, averaging 6.4 boards per game.
Makela nabbed eight rebounds against LSSU earlier in the year and led the Wildcats in scoring with 15 points.
Colla totaled 14 points, sophomore Abbey DeBruin 12 and Gruber 11 points and eight boards.
In the loss at Northwood, DeBruin, Colla and Gruber all finished with nine points. Sophomore Brooke Coenen was the only Wildcat to score in double figures, coming off the bench for 11 points.
"Northwood's a challenge," Mattson said. "They have very fast and aggressive guards. If there's something that bothers us, that's smaller, quicker guards that are able to get in the paint.
"(The Timberwolves) are playing for the same thing we are playing for," he added. "That game, if we were to beat Lake Superior, and then we play Northwood, we're both playing for that slot. It's going to be a do-or-die game probably."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mattwellens.