MARQUETTE - Traveling to top-seeded Ashland for the second year in a row for the opening round of the GLIAC women's basketball tournament, Northern Michigan University head coach Troy Mattson knows his Wildcats will have opportunities under the rim at 7 p.m. tonight in Ohio.
Getting into the lane is only half the challenge, however.
"We need to get the ball inside," Mattson said. "Our inside people have to come through. The great thing is we can get it in there against them. They let you get in there. The question is, 'Are you going to get it in the basket?'"
Northern Michigan University’s Anna Liewen puts up a shot over Ashland’s McKenzie Miller on Jan. 3 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. No. 8 NMU opens GLIAC tournament play tonight at No. 1 Ashland. The Eagles won the Jan. 3 regular season meeting, 63-46. (Journal file photo by Matt Wellens)
The Wildcats were able to work inside during the first meeting between the two schools on Jan. 3 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, but the 'Cats only shot 38 percent from the field while converting 1 of 10 buckets in the post in the first half of a 63-46 loss to the then No. 1-ranked Eagles.
Ashland, which is currently ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division II women's hoops, beat the Wildcats by a similar margin last year in the first round of the GLIAC tournament, 76-56. The Eagles went on to win the GLIAC title and finish as runners up in the NCAA Div. II tournament.
"We have to go down there and try to compete with them again and try to keep the game as close as we can throughout the whole thing so we have an opportunity in the end," Mattson said.
8. Northern Michigan at 1. Ashland, 7 p.m.
5. Grand Valley State at 4. Michigan Tech, 7:30 p.m.
6. Ferris State at 3. Wayne State, 8 p.m.
7. Saginaw Valley State at 2. Findlay, 8 p.m.
"This group needs to get in this tournament and start to feel what it feels like so then next year, we have the understanding we don't want to be on the road. We want to be at home hosting games."
Eagles senior guard Kari Daugherty has posted three double-doubles against NMU since transferring to Ashland from NCAA Div. I Dayton.
Daugherty, the 2011-12 GLIAC Women's Basketball Player of the Year and NCAA Division II Female Athlete of the Year, only scored 12 points in the playoff meeting a year ago, but nabbed 18 rebounds.
Two weeks prior to Northern's season-ending defeat, Daugherty totaled 25 points and 14 boards against NMU in Ohio.
This year during the regular season, NMU fell behind 33-16 at halftime. Daugherty finished with 27 points and 15 rebounds, but only eight points and six rebounds came in the second half.
Daugherty enters postseason play averaging 22.1 points and 14.0 rebounds per outing after missing eight games due to injury between Jan. 19-Feb. 16.
"We thought we had a good game plan for her last time and she was just a better player than we are," Mattson said.
"We have a couple things we're going to try differently this time. I thought Maria Almquist did an incredible job guarding her last time, fronting her very hard. That's going to be susceptible to giving up layups if you don't front properly.
"We need to try something different than what we did last time because she had her way with us inside."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mattwellens