Tale of two halves: Northwood turns tables after Northern Michigan University women’s basketball leading scorer Darby Youngstrom injured

From left, Northern Michigan University’s Elizabeth Lutz, Jessica Schultz and Erin Honkala defend as Northwood’s Lindsay Orwat takes a shot on Thursday evening at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

“You take a girl that’s potentially … an All-American off the court … it really threw us

for a loop.” — Troy Mattson, head coach, NMU women’s basketball

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MARQUETTE — Freshman Lexi Smith led the way for the Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team with 15 points and five rebounds against Northwood on Thursday night in the Wildcats’ home and GLIAC opener at the Berry Events Center.

But the Wildcats couldn’t fully regroup after a first-half injury to a key player as they fell to Northwood 64-56.

The team’s leading scorer and leader in assists, Darby Youngstrom, took a hard hit early in the second quarter and had to be helped off the court. She didn’t return to the game and the extent of the injury was unknown immediately after the game.

NMU head coach Troy Mattson said there was a big difference between the way his team played in each half.

“In the first half, I thought the game was to our advantage,” he said. “I thought we defended them great and did everything right, and then in the second half, we had people that decided to do their own thing out there on the defensive end and it cost us a lot of points.”

Mattson added that it’s back to basics in order for the Wildcats (4-4) to rebound in their next contest at 1 p.m. Saturday at home against Saginaw Valley State.

“We’re going to have to come back and do the same thing we do every day” he said. “Come to work, get ready to play, figure out who’s playing and get things done right.”

The loss of Youngstrom, a junior guard, appeared to be a game-changer for both sides.

“You take a girl that’s potentially a first team all-conference player, and maybe an All-American, off the court along with all of the other injuries we’ve got, it really threw us for a loop,” Mattson said. “We didn’t know who was going to step up and make plays.”

The Wildcats jumped out to a 4-0 lead with layups by Sydney Dillinger and Darby Youngstrom. Northwood pulled within one on a 3-pointer from Zakiya Wells, but that’s as close as the Timberwolves got in the opening quarter. Later in the period, the Wildcats used a seven-point run to take a 17-8 lead and still led 19-11 at the end of the quarter.

The ‘Cats used another seven-point streak to begin the second quarter and go up 24-11, though they finished the quarter with just a 12-11 scoring advantage and 31-22 halftime lead.

Smith led the Wildcats at the break with eight points while Youngstrom and Erin Honkala tallied six points apiece.

Then the second half turned into a struggle for the Wildcats. Northwood held NMU to just six points in the third period, catching up and taking a 44-37 lead by the start of the final period.

Maddy Seeley gave Northwood its first lead all night, 37-35, when she hit a 3-pointer with 2:40 left in the third. After another defensive stop, Taylor Craymer hit another 3 to put the Timberwolves up five.

Though the Wildcats pulled within two early in the fourth, they never caught the T’wolves, who pulled away in the end.

Jessica Schultz added 13 points and four rebounds for the Wildcats, while Honkala notched 12 points, three assists and five rebounds.

Northwood’s Grace German topped all scorers with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Craymer added 15 on 5-of-8 shooting, all five 3-pointers.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.