NMU women upset Ashland at NCAA  tournament

By Journal Sports Staff

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — It’s hard to beat a team three times in a season and the Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team proved that Friday night in the NCAA Division II Tournament.

The Wildcats had lost to No. 4 Ashland twice this year, including a defeat in the GLIAC Championship game on Sunday, but they came through in their third upset attempt as NMU took down the Eagles 64-57 in a Midwest Regional quarterfinal matchup.

With the win, Northern faces top-seeded and Midwest host Drury tonight at 8:30 p.m. EDT.

Darby Youngstrom and Lexi Smith led the Wildcats with 14 points apiece, while Liz Lutz had 10 points coming off the bench. Ashland’s Sara Loomis led all scorers with 32.

Ashland was in control in the first quarter, taking an early 10-4 lead. A Lutz triple cut the Eagles’ lead to three, but Ashland’s Renee Stimpert answered with a jumper. After NMU’s Sydney Dillinger dropped in a layup, Loomis knocked down a trey with 3 seconds remaining to give the Eagles a 15-9 lead headed to the second.

The Wildcats got back in the game, slowly whittling down the Eagles’ advantage before taking the lead with 4:31 left on a layup by former Marquette Redette Amber Huebner. Two free throws by Smith and a layup by Dillinger put NMU up by five at 22-17 and a jumper by Youngstrom with 1:11 left helped give the Wildcats a 24-19 lead at the half.

Ashland wouldn’t go away, though. The Eagles pulled within one at 33-32 with 4:10 remaining in the third on a bucket by Karlee Pireu, but the Wildcats rebuilt their lead to eight at 40-32 with 2:09 left on two free throws by Lutz. A triple from Stimpert cut the lead to five, but Taylor Hodell put in a layup with 43 seconds left and NMU held a 42-35 advantage going into the fourth.

With 6:18 left, Northern’s Jessica Schultz knocked down a 3-pointer to bump the Wildcats’ lead to 10 at 47-37, and with 5:30 left, Lutz hit a trey to make the lead 13.

Ashland closed within four points with 1:04 left, thanks to back-to-back triples from Loomis. However, the Wildcats didn’t wilt under the pressure as Smith, Lutz, Youngstrom and Dillinger all sank a pair of free throws down the stretch to close it out.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Writer Ryan Stieg. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.