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NMU women face test at Lake Superior State

Northern MichiganÕs Jessica Schultz pictured after just attempting to make a shot as Purdue NorthwestÕs Brittany Barnard defends at the Berry Events Center last Saturday afternoon. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — Things may not be going well for the Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team in terms of health, but it keeps finding a way to get wins.

Thanks to last week’s home victories over Wisconsin Parkside and Purdue Northwest, the Wildcats (12-11, 9-6 GLIAC) sit in second place, one game out of first in the GLIAC North Division behind Parkside and Ferris State. NMU also is fifth overall in the conference standings, so there’s still a shot for it to host a first round GLIAC playoff game.

Hosting a playoff game is definitely a possibility, but the Wildcats have to keep winning and they have a good chance to get another victory Thursday against Lake Superior State (6-16, 2-13), who they blew out in Marquette last month. NMU also has a chance to gain even more ground in the standings Saturday when it takes on Ferris (16-7, 10-5). The ‘Cats lost to the Bulldogs in a close contest in January.

“There’s a lot of stress in every game and every game is really, really important,” Northern head coach Troy Mattson said. “You can’t slip up and you have to win at home. Fortunately, we were able to do that this (last) weekend and we’ve got three of our last five at home. They’re going to be huge and important games. But we’ve got to go on the road first and we need to play well up at Lake Superior State to get started.

“There’s nothing easy on the road and it’s (Lake State) not an easy place to play. I was just watching the film again today for about the fourth time and if they make a couple shots (in January), we only had about a 10 or 12-point lead. I think the score at halftime was 26-14 and if they make a couple shots, you’ve got yourself a five or six-point game, which I’m kind of anticipating when we go over there. The one thing I feel comfortable with is, I think, if we continue to defend the way we do, we will bother them, which gives us an opportunity. But it’s no secret here, we need to have other people step up and make shots around Jessica (Schultz) and then I’ll feel a lot more comfortable as the game is going, as long as we defend the way we’ve been.”

The Wildcats are hoping to return post player Erin Honkala to some game action this week after she sat out the last couple of games with an injury. Meanwhile, according to Mattson, guard Liz Lutz hasn’t practiced all season and is basically trying to do as much as she can during games despite having an injured ankle.

One player who has been doing just fine during this rough period though is Schultz, who won GLIAC North Player of the Week for the second straight week. She scored a career-high 36 points Saturday and almost single-handedly carried the team to a win over PNW.

“I hope she gets three more (player of the week awards),” Mattson said with a chuckle. “I hope she wins five in a row to tell you the truth. If she wins five in a row, we’re probably going to win out. She’s just been unbelievable since Christmastime. Especially since Erin has gotten injured and we lost all those points with Erin, she has just taken the whole team on her back and she’s playing with great confidence. And she’s playing like a senior is supposed to play. Earlier in the season, she wasn’t. She and I didn’t have a very good meeting, but ever since that meeting, she has turned it around and has really just carried us to be honest with you. I’m really proud for her and she’s been great about it and hopefully, she can continue.”

Tipoff against the Lakers is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, while the Wildcats play the Bulldogs at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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