MARQUETTE - The Michigan Tech University women's basketball team will bring an impressive resume into the Berry Events Center at 3 p.m. on Saturday for a showdown with Northern Michigan University.
The Huskies hold a half-game lead over Grand Valley State in the GLIAC North Division title race and are tied for second with Findlay (Ohio) in the overall league standings.
At 13-5 overall and 11-3 in the GLIAC, Tech even picked up some votes in the latest USA Today Sports Division II Top 25 coaches' poll this week.
Michigan Tech point guard Sam Hoyt begins to drive inside against Northern Michigan on Jan. 5, 2012 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Hoyt is averaging 16.2 points and 3.9 assists per game for Tech, which rank fifth and second in the GLIAC, respectively. (Journal file photo by Matt Keiser)
Tech's standing and national ranking doesn't concern Wildcats head coach Troy Mattson, however. Nor does the fact NMU has lost 17 of its last 18 meetings with the Huskies, including five straight and every meeting in Marquette dating back to the 2003-04 season.
What concerns Mattson the most is Tech senior point guard Sam Hoyt.
"It's real important for us to get the ball out of her hands," said Mattson, whose Wildcats are 10-8 overall, 7-7 in the GLIAC, sixth in the North Division and eighth overall in the league.
"We can't have her scoring in the bunches she's capable of. She's one of the top two players in this league."
Hoyt scored in double figures twice last season against the Wildcats, posting 11 points and four assists in a 72-49 rout on Dec. 3, 2011 in Houghton and another 10 points and two assists in a tight 66-60 Tech win on Jan. 5, 2012 in Marquette. The MTU senior point guard has taken her game to another level this season for the Huskies. She's averaging a team-high 16.2 points and 3.9 assists per game, which rank fifth and second in the GLIAC, respectively.
In a pair of road wins last weekend, Hoyt tallied 20 points and two assists against Northwood, then lit up Lake Superior State for 27 points and two assists less than 48 hours later.
"She turned it up in two games this week," Mattson said. "She just went to work on Northwood in a game where Northwood had them beat. She just took over the game. Against Lake Superior, she just went off."
Northern will attempt to counter Hoyt with sophomore guards Lauren Gruber and Alyssa Colla. Both are averaging over 10 points and 35 minutes per game.
Gruber holds a slight edge over Colla in both categories for the team-high, averaging 12.3 points and 35.9 minutes, plus three assists per game. Colla leads NMU in assists, averaging 3.3 per contest, on top of the 11.4 points and 35.2 minutes per game average.
Both guards also lead NMU in steals, with Colla edging out Gruber, 26-24.
"Lauren has really brought her game to another level from the past year," Mattson said. "Alyssa showed signs last year as a freshman that she could be a major player in this league. The two of them continue to log 35-40 minutes a night because I can't find anybody else who's going to step out there on the court and pick up the slack when they're out of the game."
Colla was the only Wildcat to score in double figures twice against Michigan Tech last season, posting 12 points and three assists as a starter in Houghton and 11 points, three assists and two steals in 33 minutes off the bench in Marquette.
Mattson said at 5-feet-11, Colla matches up well against Tech's smaller guards like Hoyt, who is 5-5.
"Alyssa has done an incredible job (against Tech) so far and she's going to need to do it again for us to have a chance to win," Mattson said.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mattwellens.