MARQUETTE – As disappointed as he was in his team’s loss to Michigan Tech University Thursday night at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Troy Mattson tried to put it in perspective.
“Even though this was Michigan Tech and it was a big game, the biggest game of the year for us is Wednesday,” the Northern Michigan University women’s basketball coach said after a 63-50 loss to Tech.
“We’re No. 9 in the region and we’ll be playing No. 8 Grand Valley State (in the opening round of the GLIAC tournament). We’ll play really well on Wednesday.”
NMU (17-9 overall, 15-7 GLIAC North Division) struggled all night against the Huskies, who also have a No. 9 ranking, though it is for all of NCAA Division II. In a game they never led, the Wildcats shot just 38 percent from the field and committed 20 turnovers.
They also recorded but eight assists.
“We just got beat tonight,” Mattson said. “Tech played great and defended well.
“Their length around the basket bothered us. They negated some stuff we like to do.”
The Huskies (24-2, 20-2), who had already clinched the GLIAC regular-season title and No. 1 seed in the upcoming tournament, limited the Wildcats to just 10 attempts from 3-point range. NMU made three.
“We were hoping to do something on offense, but (Tech) defended us well,” said NMU senior guard Alyssa Colla, who led the Wildcats with 22 points.
Abbey DeBruin and Lauren Gruber added 10 apiece. In grabbing three rebounds, the latter became the 12th player in NMU history to score 1,000 career points and record 500 rebounds.
Gruber now has 1,075 points and 501 boards.
Jillian Ritchie led a balanced MTU attack with 22 points. Morgan Anderson added 11, while Kelli Guy and Brenna Heise tossed in 10 each.
“We knew we had to be able to get some open shots,” MTU head coach Kim Cameron said after her team canned 26 of 53 shots from the field for 49.1 percent. “We made that extra pass and got the ball inside.
“This game will catapult us into the postseason. We need to be playing our best basketball right now to have a chance at our goals.”
She attributed her team’s win to the defense it played.
“To hold a team like (Northern) to just 50 points in such an important game is something,” Cameron said.
With a well executed offense, the Huskies grabbed a 13-6 lead and stretched it to 22-10 with 8:42 left in the first half behind eight points by Heise.
NMU came back to trim the deficit to eight points, 28-20, at intermission with eight points from Colla and six by Gruber.
But eight points by Tech’s Kelli Guy – including a pair of triples – in the first five minutes of the second half gave MTU a 38-26 advantage Northern couldn’t overcome.
“The first five minutes of the second half usually dictate … how the rest of the game is going to go,” Gruber said. “I don’t think we came out with the intensity we needed.
“(The Huskies) came out with a 3-pointer by Guy and it just started them rolling all over again.”
Colla did her best to keep the Wildcats in contention in the final 20 minutes, but her 14 second-half points weren’t nearly enough.
“She’s a great player and held us in the game,” Mattson said. “But she had to create things (offensively) by herself because no one else was getting shots.
“It was Alyssa vs. Tech and that’s not how we run our offense.”
Colla finished 8 of 25 from the field, including a pair of treys, and led NMU with 10 boards.
“She’s an unbelievable offensive player,” Cameron said. “You’ve got to have two or three people on her defensively (to stop her).”
Northern outrebounded MTU 36-25 behind 10 boards by Colla. Danielle Blake led Tech with 10 boards.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is email@example.com.