‘Cats maul Cardinals

NMU women use good third quarter to beat SVSU

“https://s3.amazonaws.com/ogden_images/www.miningjournal.net/images/2019/02/08001638/D30R3918MJ-354×500.jpg” alt=”” width=”354″ height=”500″ class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-780749″ />MARQUETTE — In the school’s weekly press conference Tuesday, Northern Michigan University women’s basketball coach Troy Mattson said his team wasn’t “stepping up” when it needed to, but on Thursday, that’s exactly what the Wildcats did.

Up by 10 at the half, NMU held Saginaw Valley State to just six points in the third quarter and rolled from there as the Wildcats notched a 56-38 victory. Darby Youngstrom led Northern with 18 points, while Taylor Hodell chipped in 10 points.

Mattson was also concerned going into the game with how the Wildcats’ offense had been performing the past few games as in their most recent game, they only managed 44 points. After the game with Saginaw, he said it was still a worry, but he liked how his team played.

“It’s a concern every night for us because it’s the one thing that’s kind of held us back from having an incredible season,” he said. “I thought we really moved the basketball well tonight. People recognized when they were doubled and when we were driving, they were helping. We were moving the basketball and it was crisp and it was sharp. I didn’t think we particularly shoot the ball all that well tonight but we’ll save that, hopefully for Saturday, but I did like how the basketball moved.”

Youngstrom kind of took it upon herself to lead the Wildcats (16-6, 11-3 GLIAC) offensively, but also said it wasn’t just her that played well.

“This week, coach (Mattson) challenged all of us to go in there and put the ball in the basket because we’ve been struggling on offense,” she said. “So I kind of took that personally. The defense, that just what they were giving me. They were doubling the post a lot early on and a lot of other people hit threes when we kicked the ball out.”

The game went back-and-forth for the majority of the first quarter until the Wildcats got four straight points from Erin Honkala to take a 12-8 advantage. Saginaw answered with a jumper from Maddie Barrie, but Youngstrom hit a trey and Lexi Smith put in a layup in the closing seconds to give Northern a 17-10 lead after one quarter.

In the second, a Hodell layup put the Wildcats up 21-12 with 8:26 left, but the Cardinals got jumpers from Aaliah Hill and Barrie to keep their deficit reasonable. However, Liz Lutz knocked down a triple and Smith put in a layup to help give NMU a double-digit lead at the half.

Youngstrom opened up the third with a layup and that was followed by a 3-pointer from Sydney Dillinger. Later, Honkala and Hodell both put in buckets and Lutz hit another trey to put the Wildcats up 45-22 with 5:19 left in the quarter. Northern held the Cardinals scoreless until 1:19 left when Mariah Cook dropped in a free throw, and led 48-28 heading into the fourth quarter.

“It just works a lot better when we all work together,” Hodell said. “Like coach said, pass to the open person when we’re doubled and take it to the hole when we’re not. Finding that rhythm and feeding off each other really helps the flow of the game. Everybody’s confidence grows from there.”

Northern stayed comfortably ahead for the remainder of the game. A Hodell layup put the Wildcats up by 22, but Saginaw answered back with treys from Maddie Maloney and Cook to cut the Cardinals’ deficit to 16 at 50-34. However, that’s the closest Saginaw would get as NMU closed out the victory.

The Wildcats host Northwood in their final regular season home game at 1 p.m. Saturday and Mattson is expecting a battle from the Timberwolves.

“I know one thing, they play extremely hard every night,” he said. “They’re a very good basketball team and they’re starting to get organized. They were struggling early on, they had some transfers in and some freshmen playing the first time we played them and they struggled a little bit, but they compete. We need to go out there and compete more than they do because it’s a big day for us.”

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