MARQUETTE - A strong start set the tone for the Northern Michigan University women's basketball team in a 77-68 win over Malone University on Saturday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
The victory upped the NMU's record to 2-0 in the GLIAC and 5-1 overall, while Malone drops to 0-2 and 4-2.
"They're just a really solid bunch of people that can play the basketball the right way," head coach Troy Mattson said of his Wildcats. "When they play like that, we're going to be a hard team to beat."
Northern Michigan University junior Abbey DeBruin, left, cuts the corner on Malone University sophomore Bri Libertore during the second half on Saturday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Northern came out aggressive on its home court and worked its way to a 27-13 lead about 10 minutes into the game.
The Pioneers nearly caught the 'Cats in the second half, pulling within two points at 62-60 with five minutes left, but NMU made a number of free throws down the stretch for the final nine-point margin.
"I think the game could have been put away a little earlier if we would have been a little more efficient in some areas, but those are things we'll continue to learn how to do," Mattson said.
All five 'Cats' starters scored in double digits and had multiple rebounds. Junior Abbey DeBruin led NMU with 17 points, while junior Alyssa Colla and sophomore Anna Liewen added 15 points each.
Liewen also led the 'Cats with eight rebounds before going out midway through the second half with what Mattson termed a potentially serious knee injury.
Mattson said Northern, being a team of considerable size, gave the Pioneers some mismatch problems.
"We're very big, we're very strong and we're pretty athletic," Mattson said. "It's a nightmare for teams as to how they're going to handle us."
DeBruin and Gruber both said their team knew Malone had small, quick guards, so the Wildcats were able to get the ball inside at the beginning of the game. When the Pioneers switched to double coverage on NMU's post, it opened up things for the Northern's outside shooters.
"Our team is full of good shooters," Gruber said. "We threw a lot of people in at the post and when we can have people go down low and make layups on them, that makes the physicality of the game go up."
The Wildcats go on the road to face Findlay on Saturday before finishing this month's schedule at Hillsdale on Monday, Dec. 16.
Delaney Lovett can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.