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Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team outlasts Wisconsin-Parkside, 60-55

Northern Michigan University’s Jessica Schultz, left, makes a basket as Wisconsin-Parkside’s Claire Jakaitis defends Thursday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Amy Grigas)

MARQUETTE — Getting revenge on a team that broke your heart can be satisfying.

That about sums up how the Northern Michigan University women’s basketball squad felt Thursday night.

Back in January, the Wildcats lost to Wisconsin-Parkside on a last-second 3-pointer, but they made sure that didn’t happen again as they got 23 points from Jessica Schultz and 14 from Liz Lutz to outlast the Rangers 60-55.

With the win, NMU (11-11, 8-6 GLIAC) stays in third place in the GLIAC North Division and is one game out of the lead behind Parkside (12-10, 9-5) and Ferris State (15-7, 9-5).

The hard-fought win left Wildcats head coach Troy Mattson exhausted in the postgame press conference, but he was pleased with how his team played.

“That was a good team we just beat,” he said. “It’s a matchup nightmare for us. Most of the time, I think we’re a nightmare matchup for people and we kind of are, but against them, it’s not good for us.

“We can’t play man-to-man defense against them, they’ve got five guards out there that can all shoot the basketball.

“It made us work on some zone (defense). I’m not a zone person, but it made us work on some zone here the last couple of days.

“I thought the girls did a real good job of executing it for the most part and I said if we can keep them around 50, we’ll have a chance to win. And lo and behold, we keep them at 55 and give ourselves a chance to win and we were able to pull the game out.”

When asked what was the key to beating Parkside after coming up short the first time around, Mattson said there were many things.

“We couldn’t turn the ball over,” he said. “What happened down there is we were up by 18 points at one point, but we turned it over and turned it over and it led to baskets. We had a few too many turnovers (tonight), but they didn’t lead to baskets.

“We were able to not give up transition baskets to them and not let them make a high volume of 3s. That was very key and then just keep giving the ball to Jessica and let her figure the game out. She’s just playing unbelievably well and she’s reading the game extremely well.

“And I thought Liz had a huge game. She made big 3s for us going down the stretch, took care of the basketball for us and beat some people off the dribble and got some and-ones going to the basket. So I really thought she played well.”

Leading by one at halftime, the Rangers opened with two straight buckets, but the Wildcats tied it 33-33 on a three-point play by Lutz with 6:27 left. The lead seesawed for the rest of the quarter.

Parkside led by five at 38-33, but a Schultz jumper and a triple from Elena Alaix tied it again 38-38 with 4:37 left. Northern went up by four points three times after that in the quarter, the last time on a putback by Samantha Potter with 1:09 remaining to make it 48-44.

In the fourth, NMU got its lead up to five on a trey from Lutz and again later on a layup by Schultz 57-52 with 5:03 remaining. The Wildcats held that exact lead until 54 seconds left when Aina Cabrero Sinol knocked down a wide-open triple. That’s the closest the Rangers would get after Northern made its free throws down the stretch.

Northern pushed its early lead to 20-12 on a triple from Lutz, and after a steal and layup from the Rangers’ Maddy Harrison, Schultz got the ‘Cats back up by eight with a layup.

Parkside wouldn’t go away, though, rallying to tie it 25-25 on a bucket from Alyssa Nelson, and then taking the lead on an Alisha Murphy jumper.

The Wildcats take on Purdue Northwest (6-16, 5-9) at the Berry Events Center in Marquette at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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