Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team trying to get back into top 4 in GLIAC to earn home court in first round of postseason tournament

Northern Michigan University’s Mackenzie Holzwart, right, tries to work around Davenport defenders Jaci Walker, left, and Makenna Bryant during their GLIAC women’s game played at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Jan. 21. Bryant grew up in Newberry and played for the Indians’ high school varsity team for two years before her family moved downstate. (Photo courtesy NMU)

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team will face the top and bottom teams in the GLIAC this week as the Wildcats need wins while looking to get back into a top-four position in the conference.

NMU (12-10, 7-6 GLIAC) travels to Grand Rapids to play last-place Davenport at 5:30 p.m. today before taking the short trip to Allendale to face first-place Grand Valley State at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Northern is tied with Ferris State for fifth in the league as the top four teams get to host a first-round GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal game.

But the Wildcats are just a half-game behind fourth-place Saginaw Valley State, which is 7-5.

Grand Valley (20-2 overall) has a half-game lead on Michigan Tech for the top spot in the conference at 11-1 as the Huskies are 11-2. Meanwhile, Davenport (7-15 overall) is in the basement at 1-11 as Lake Superior State is just ahead of the Panthers at 2-11.

NMU has had a tough go of it lately, having lost three in a row and five of their last seven. Before that, the Wildcats were challenging GVSU for the top spot in the GLIAC.

In Saturday’s 69-64 home loss to Wayne State, Northern broke the 60-point barrier for the first time in nine games dating back to Jan. 5. Last week, the Wildcats also lost to SVSU 46-43 on Thursday.

In the low-scoring game vs. the Cardinals, NMU turned the ball over 17 times to just nine for SVSU, which also scored 17 points off Northern’s miscues, according to a game preview provided by NMU Sports Information.

Free throws — or a lack of them — hurt the Wildcats’ cause as they made just 1 of 3 while Saginaw hit on 13 of 17.

Mackenzie Holzwart led NMU with 10 points as season-leading scorer Makaylee Kuhn had eight after making just 4 of 20 shots. But Kuhn also led Northern rebounders with 10, all on the defensive glass. The Cards’ Tori DePerry led all players with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

Even as the Wildcats lost Saturday, they somewhat snapped out of their offensive funk by sinking more than half their 3-pointers, 10 of 19, as Kuhn led the way with 15 points and 2 of 3 on triples. NMU freshman Sarah Newcomer came off the bench to add 12 points, all on 3s as she made 4 of 7 of those long shots. But Wayne State’s Shea Tripp came up with 25 points.

While Northern is last in the league in scoring at 59.1 points per game, the Wildcats are also No. 2 in scoring defense at 56.2 ppg. Only nationally ranked Grand Valley has a better scoring defense as NMU is nearly 4 1/2 points better than any other conference squad.

In fact, Northern’s scoring defense is 16th in NCAA Division II as their opponents shoot just 38.1%, No. 3 in the GLIAC. The Wildcats also have a plus-6.0 rebounding margin, second in the league, while they hold opponents to 10.0 assists each contest, third in the conference.

Kuhn easily leads NMU at 15.0 ppg and 7.3 rebounds per contest. Holzwart is next at 9.0 ppg and 5.5 rebounds, while Abi Fraaza is next in scoring at 7.5 ppg and Ana Rhude next in rebounds with a 5.1 average.

Davenport has lost five straight games, though the Panthers are 6-5 at home this season. DU is No. 8 in the GLIAC in both scoring offense and defense, scoring 61.0 ppg while giving up 69.6.

Lillee Gustafson leads Davenport with averages of 14.5 ppg and 9.4 rebounds.

On Jan. 21 in Marquette, NMU defeated the Panthers 57-46 as Kuhn led all players with 22 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals, though Holzwart also had nine rebounds and teammate Taya Stevenson also had three steals.

Kuhn not only made all six of her free throw attempts, she committed just one turnover in 37 minutes court time. Holzwart added 11 points and Vivianne Jende 10, while Gustafson led DU with 16 points.

At the other end of the spectrum, No. 6 Grand Valley is 10-1 at home this season, with both its scoring offense and defense No. 1 in the GLIAC. The Lakers score at a 78.1 ppg clip and give up just 50.9. The scoring defense is third best in Division II and their plus-12.9 rebounding margin leads the nation.

Emily Spitzley leads GVSU in scoring at 14.0 ppg, while teammate Nicole Kamin is the only league player averaging better than 50% on 3-point tries at 50.9%.

The Lakers outlasted Northern 45-38 in Marquette on Jan. 19 even as the GVSU’s point total was its lowest of the season.

Holzwart led NMU with 12 points as Kuhn had nine to go with a team-high seven rebounds. The Wildcats shot just 27% (14 of 52) from the field, including 20% on 3s (3 of 15), even though GVSU was about the same at 31% (16 of 52) from the field and 19% (3 of 16) on triples. The Lakers did have a 10-rebound edge, 42-32.

Fans can follow this NMU team @nmu_wbball and @NMU_Wildcats on Twitter. For video, audio, live statistics, game notes and series histories, visit the NMU athletics website at nmuwildcats.com under the women’s basketball schedule.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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