MARQUETTE - Like the recent severe winter weather, shooting went into a deep freeze for the Northern Michigan University women's basketball team on Thursday night.
And it cost the Wildcats a sorely needed home victory as they try to stay within range of the leaders in the GLIAC's North Division and bolster their standing for the league postseason tournament.
North basement dweller Lake Superior State came into the Berry Events Center and took a 70-57 victory despite a game-high 23 points by NMU junior guard Alyssa Colla.
Northern Michigan University’s Brooke Coenen (40) puts up a shot over Lake Superior State’s Laura VanEs on Thursday at the Berry?Events Center in?Marquette. (Journal photo by Amy Treloar)
Colla was the only Northern player taking multiple shots who made at least 40 percent of them as the Wildcats finished just 16 of 53 for 30.2 percent. They were even colder from behind the arc, making just 4 of 26 (15.4 percent).
"You just don't lose that game at home," said NMU coach Troy Mattson, whose team slipped to 8-5 in the GLIAC and 11-6 overall with its fourth straight loss. "It's going to hurt us the rest of the year.
"I'm disappointed because we couldn't make our shots after we played lights out at Wayne State and Saginaw Valley last week."
The Wildcats' fourth straight loss puts them four games behind league leader Wayne State and three behind second-place Michigan Tech after each won Thursday.
The only good news was that MTU's victory was against Northwood, which remained tied with NMU for third place in the division, and that their closest pursuer, Grand Valley State, also lost Thursday to stay a game back.
But it's a far cry from the way the standings looked at the start of the month, when the 'Cats were 6-0 and tied for the division lead.
Now they have a lead of just one game over the last two teams holding onto GLIAC tournament spots, GVSU and SVSU, and are ahead of three other teams that are on the outside looking in by two games.
"It was a really pathetic effort by us," Colla said, ticking off numerous areas of the game, including ball handling and defense, that she said weren't up to par Thursday.
Addressing the media at a news conference after the game, she and senior teammate Annie Rubendunst looked tired and upset.
"Your offense is what gives you your energy," Mattson said, "but it can sap you of your energy, too, if things aren't going right."
Though the Lakers (5-15, 5-8) led nearly the whole way, the game was really decided in a 6 1/2-minute stretch in the middle of the second half.
LSSU led by one, 23-22, at halftime, and Northern tied the score three times after that, the final instance at 34-34 with 12:32 left. Then the Lakers went on a 19-7 run to open their biggest lead, 53-41, with 5:54 to go.
Lakers coach Shannon Eggers hoped the game would go that way.
"I just wanted to stayed with five points, even just stay within single digits, in the first half," she said. "We worked on a 'spread' offense for this game, which gives us the ability to penetrate (to the basket) more and expose their big players.
"Our other key was defensive rebounding."
She was pleased that her team outrebounded Northern, 39-33, and particularly that the Wildcats nabbed just six offensive rebounds.
The Lakers feature several players shorter than their NMU counterparts, such as point guards Raven Trammell, a 5-foot-4 senior, and their starter at that position, 5-2 sophomore Megan Manninen, who played at Westwood High School.
Manninen scored just two points, but added two rebounds and two assists without making a turnover.
"It's great to bring her home, and she played so well," Eggers said. "It was a big boost for her to be able to play in the last five minutes of the game, because we only had one senior on the floor.
"I'm hoping she can use this as momentum for the rest of the season."
As does Manninen.
"It's just a matter of confidence," Manninen said. "When you have confidence, you play better.
"I was really looking forward to playing in front of my family and friends."
Northern sophomore forward Nea Makela finished with 12 points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the first half that kept her team close, while Rubendunst, the new starting center, finished with 11. Colla and junior Abbey DeBruin each grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
Junior forward Kandace Crittendon and senior center Laura VanEs led the Lakers with 18 points apiece as VanEs grabbed 10 rebounds and Crittendon nine. Junior guard Stephanie Fisher added 12 points.
Northwood comes to Marquette to play the Wildcats at 11 a.m. on Saturday.