NMU women roar past Lakers in dominant victory

MARQUETTE — It’s rare that the outcome of a college basketball game is determined by halftime, but on Thursday night at the Berry Events Center, it was blatantly obvious how things would turn out.

The Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team opened up the game on a 10-0 run and never looked back as the Wildcats routed Lake Superior State 93-36. NMU (11-4, 6-1 GLIAC) led 49-16 at halftime and piled on from there.

This was the Wildcats’ 10th straight win over the Lakers and kept LSSU winless in GLIAC play (5-9, 0-7). Liz Lutz led the Wildcats with 12 points, while Jessica Schultz had 11 points, and both Lexi Smith and Darby Youngstrom had 10. Northern also heavily outrebounded the Lakers 43-13 and Sydney Dillinger tied a career-high with four steals.

“The girls were ready to play,” NMU head coach Troy Mattson said. “In this game, we cleaned up a lot of the things that have been plaguing us for a couple of years. If they want to play and do things right every single night, we’re going to be a tough team to beat. The problem is when we’ve been getting in big games, we don’t do the things right to beat good teams. It was a step in the right direction tonight.

“We prepared well this last week and we took a baby step in the right direction as a team. That’s all I can say. We’ve got a long way to go, but it was a step in the right direction. It wasn’t a step sideways and it wasn’t a step backwards. So I’m pretty proud of what we were able to do in the last few days, but I’m getting ready for Ferris State now. The girls will get ready tomorrow when I bring them in.”

Schultz agreed with her coach’s assessment and said that Mattson tried a different method to analyzing game film that she though benefited the team.

“We had some setbacks against Ashland and we weren’t all mentally there,” she said. “Definitely this week, we’ve made some strides and after watching film, coach came up with a different method of us calling ourselves out on film, which I think really helped people to be accountable for their own mistakes and that made people realize what they need to do and how to be better like we were tonight.”

The Wildcats’ opening run was highlighted by five points from Youngstrom and didn’t end until 5:59 left in the first quarter when LSSU’s Claire Radtke hit a trey. NMU kept rolling for the rest of the quarter with a Taylor Hodell layup putting the Wildcats up 20-8 with 3:06 left and a bucket by Emily Mueller giving Northern a 28-10 advantage with less than a minute left. NMU led 28-12 heading into the second.

A triple from Schultz put Northern up by 21 at 33-12 with 8:56 left and the Wildcats built up a 30-point advantage on a free throw from Smith with 1:47 remaining. Schultz later closed out the half with a layup and NMU led by 33 at the break. The Wildcats held the Lakers to just four points in the quarter.

Northern continued to pile on in the second half. A three-point play from Dillinger and a Youngstrom layup helped give NMU a 40-point lead at 56-16. The Lakers didn’t score until less than eight minutes left on a trey from Morgan Villemure. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Baleigh Delorit gave the Wildcats a 68-21 lead and NMU headed into the fourth quarter up 70-23.

A triple from Tess Weatherly brought NMU’s lead up to 50 points and after the Lakers cut their deficit below 50, former Marquette Redette Amber Huebner dropped in a layup to put the Wildcats back up by 50 with 5:10 remaining.

Northern plays Ferris State at 1:00 p.m. Saturday and Mattson said if the Wildcats bring the same kind of performance against the Bulldogs like they did against the Lakers, they’ll be hard to stop.

“I haven’t watched any film on them yet, but I know that they have the same personnel as last year,” he said. “Lots of speed on the perimeter and aggressive guards. They’ve been playing well and they’re right behind us in the conference race. It’s on our home court and we need to bring the same type of intensity and toughness and commitment to the defensive end. If we continue to do that, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.