Not good enough: Northern Michigan University women’s basketball season ends at home with GLIAC Tournament loss to Davenport, 61-45

Northern Michigan University’s Taya Stevenson, front right, drives to the basket as Davenport’s Emily Lange, left, and Ryan Harvey defend during the first quarter of their GLIAC Tournament first-round game played Tuesday at the PEIF gym in Marquette. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

MARQUETTE — Going into Tuesday’s first round of the GLIAC Tournament against Davenport, Northern Michigan University head coach Troy Mattson felt his team had to improve quickly if it wanted to keep its season going.

The Wildcats did look good at moments, but some sloppy play in the first half and turnovers in the fourth quarter sealed their fate as the visiting Panthers upset NMU 61-45 at the PEIF gym.

Kayla Tierney led Northern with 17 points.

Mattson said his Wildcats improved a little on defense, but poor shooting is what hurt them the most in the end.

“They shot the ball extremely well and we didn’t shoot the ball very well,” he said, comparing the teams. “And I think the free throw line nicked us a little. Five for 10 from the free throw line is not good for a really good free throw shooting team.

“We did some decent things on the defensive end, but it might’ve been one of our worst shooting performances all year. Unfortunately, it hit us tonight.”

Another thing that hit the Wildcats was how the Panthers clamped down on NMU’s best player, Makaylee Kuhn. After scoring more than 30 points twice last weekend against Purdue Northwest, the Panthers held her to just seven.

“They did a better job of not letting her touch it on the initial front in the post and we had to reverse the ball quickly,” Mattson said. “And I thought we did a pretty decent job of doing that, but what it really did was it sped us up, which turned into some bad passes, some bad decisions.

“These are things that we’ve got to learn from. She can’t carry us every night. We know that and we’ve been preaching it the whole year, but some people aren’t ready.”

The Wildcats struggled out of the gates as Davenport opened on a 6-0 run. NMU pulled within two at 9-7 thanks to a Vivianne Jende layup with 5:47 left in the first quarter. However, back-to-back treys from Toni Grace and Scout Nelson suddenly put the Panthers up 18-7 going into the second.

Northern started to claw back in the next quarter as a Tierney triple cut Davenport’s lead to 21-16, but Emily Lange answered with a 3-pointer of her own and the Panthers’ Claire Borsheim made a jumper to push their advantage to double-digits at 26-16 with 2:48 left. Nelson then drilled a trey with 6 seconds left to make it 29-20 Davenport at halftime.

Things started to turn in the Wildcats’ direction during the third quarter. Samantha Potter got NMU within three with a 3-pointer and after Lange made a 3-pointer at the other end, Ishpeming native Madigan Johns beat the shot clock with a nifty reverse layup to make it 36-32 with 4:24 left. A Kuhn layup beat the buzzer before the end of the quarter and Northern trailed just 38-34.

Johns nailed a triple early in the fourth to get the Wildcats within one and Elena Alaix followed that with a wide-open trey to give NMU its first lead at 40-38. After a Ryan Harvey 3-pointer, Potter put in a layup for the Wildcats to make it 42-41 with 7:51 remaining.

But that would be the last time Northern held the lead as they started to turn the ball over just like in the first half, thanks to some poor decisions.

And the Panthers took advantage of them. A Lange bucket put Davenport up by double digits at 53-42, and later Harvey hit a trey with 1:22 left to put the game away.

When it came to NMU’s 18 turnovers, Mattson credited the Panthers for being ready to go from the opening tip and said that they simply outplayed his squad.

“I don’t think it was excessive pressure,” he said. “Let’s give Davenport a lot of credit. They came here and they didn’t have one of their better players. You could tell before the game they were really focused and committed to play harder than us and they did.

“That’s something we need to learn that you can’t have people coming into your home, especially in a tournament game, and outplay you for the majority of the night.”

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


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