A key excursion: Final road trip by Northern Michigan University Wildcat women’s basketball team could determine home court in GLIAC tournament

Northern Michigan University’s Ana Rhude, center, tries to work around Michigan Tech defender Alex Rondorf, right, in the third quarter as the Huskies’ Emma Anderson also jumps into the play during their GLIAC women’s basketball game played at MTU in Houghton on Saturday. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

This week: NMU at Saginaw Valley State, 5:30 p.m. today; at Wayne State, 1 p.m. Saturday; Radio: WUPT 100.3 FM The Point


MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team has an important pair of road games starting this afternoon if the Wildcats want to hold onto home court in the first round of the upcoming GLIAC Tournament.

NMU travels to University Center to take on Saginaw Valley State at 5:30 p.m. today before heading south to Detroit to face Wayne State at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The games will be broadcast on radio station WUPT 100.3 FM The Point, while fans can also follow @NMU_WBBall and @NMU_Wildcats on X (formerly Twitter) for updates leading up to and during the games. Or visit the NMU athletics website at nmuwildcats.com and look under the women’s basketball schedule for links to game previews and histories and live statistics, audio and video.

Northern Michigan University’s Makaylee Kuhn, right, drives to the basket past Wisconsin-Parkside’s Gabriela Loiz during their GLIAC women’s basketball game played at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

Northern is in a good position, but also a precarious one, in the GLIAC, making these games important. The Wildcats are 16-7 overall and 10-4 in the GLIAC, good for third place as four teams get to host in the tourney quarterfinals in just under two weeks on Wednesday, March 6.

While NMU trails league leader Grand Valley State (13-1) by three games and second-place Ferris State (12-2) by two games, the Wildcats are up two games in the loss column on both Wayne State (9-6) and Michigan Tech (8-6).

And there’s four regular-season games to go for Northern and the other top teams except Wayne State, which has three left.

On Saturday afternoon, NMU broke a 14-game losing streak to Michigan Tech by racing past the Huskies 70-45 in Houghton. The Wildcats led just 31-30 at halftime before breaking the game wide open as they outscored their hosts 39-15 in the final 20 minutes.

Ana Rhude tied a program record for making the most shots from the field without a miss as she went 8 for 8 to score 16 points and share game scoring honors with teammate Makaylee Kuhn. Teammate Mackenzie Holzwart almost matched Rhude, going 7 of 8 from the field — her only miss a 3-point attempt — and scoring 14 points.

Northern hadn’t defeated Tech since 2017, marking the first win even for the fifth-year senior Kuhn against their biggest Upper Peninsula rival. It was also NMU’s first win vs. MTU in Houghton since 2010.

Looking at this week’s opponents, SVSU (9-16, 6-9 GLIAC) has won three of its last five games, including an impressive 47-44 over nationally ranked No. 4 Ferris 47-44 last Thursday.

The Cardinals average 58.9 points per game this season while allowing 62.3 pg as they shoot 39.9% from the field and 25.3% on 3s.

Junior guard Aleshia Jones is sixth amongst conference scorers at 13.3 ppg, while sophomore teammate Lydia Meredith is second in the GLIAC in steals with 60.

Fifth-year head coach Jenny Pruett leads SVSU as Northern won their previous meeting in Marquette during December 65-41. Sarah Newcomer led the Wildcats with a career-high 23 points as NMU held the Cards to just 25.5% shooting (12 of 47) while forcing 17 SVSU turnovers.

Wayne State (16-8 overall) is Northern’s closest pursuer and would pull within a half-game of the Wildcats if they were to win Saturday. The Warriors are 8-3 at home this season, and for the entire campaign average 71.4 ppg for and 67.5 ppg against.

WSU tops the league in free throws made at 13.7 per game and second in steals at 10.8 each outing.

The Warriors, who make 43.4% from the field and 32.2% on triples, are led by junior forward Shea Tripp at 12.8 ppg as she shoots 48.5% from the floor and pulls in 6.7 rebounds a contest. Tripp also leads the GLIAC with 2.6 steals per game. Sophomore Gabi Lutchka is second in scoring at 11.6 ppg and shoots 51.8% from the field and 38.8% on 3s.

Carrie Lohr is the 13th-year head coach of Wayne State, who the Wildcats defeated 81-66 in Marquette during December. Northern shot 51.7% (31 of 60) that day as the Warriors only hit 34.4% (22 of 64). NMU also had a big 42-28 advantage in rebounds as Kuhn hit a then-season-high 30 points as Holzwart added 17 and Kayla Tierney 14, also season highs at the time.

Here are some other facts about the Wildcats as gleaned by NMU Sports Information:

• Kuhn leads conference scorers at 17.3 ppg and is fourth with 7.0 rebounds per game. She makes 83.2% (104 of 125) on free throws, fourth in the league. She is a three-time All-GLIAC First Teamer and was named to the Preseason First Team.

• Northern leads the GLIAC in fewest turnovers per game at 11.1, which is the third-best mark in the country. The Wildcats are also 11th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.21. Northern has two players averaging at least two assists per turnover with CJ Romero at 2.14 and Kuhn at 2.21.

• NMU allows just 6.4 offensive rebounds per game, fewest in the conference. The ‘Cats are also second in the conference in rebounding margin at plus-7.0 and second in free throw percentage at 76.9%.

• Holzwart at 3.3 assists per game and Kuhn at 2.8 are one of two pairs of GLIAC teammates to average at least 2.6 assists a game, with the other being Wayne State’s Kate McArthur at 4.0 and Tripp at 3.0.

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


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