After his team defeated the Ashland Eagles 81-75 on Saturday, head women’s basketball coach Troy Mattson said it was the biggest victory for the NMU women’s team in recent years.
NMU (8-5 and 3-5 in GLIAC play) was down by eight going into the second half at 41-33, but found a balance with the inside game and perimeter shooting to beat the second best team in the GLIAC South.
“It took a lot of effort and a lot of execution on the offensive end,” coach Mattson said. “I am just proud of them and how they played on both ends of the court especially in the second half.”
In the final minute of the game Ashland trimmed the NMU lead to just two, but senior guard Kelsey Deacon secured the victory for the Wildcats by going one-on-one and hitting a baseline jumper.
She then followed that up with two free throws on the next Wildcat possession.
“Kelsey Deacon just put our team on her shoulders and she made the right reads on almost every play,” coach Mattson said. “She had great looks in and around the basket and really opened up the game for us.”
Deacon, whom after the performance was named GLIAC player of the week, had a tie for her career-high 29 points and was a perfect 5-5 from the charity stripe.
Senior forward Cassie Hegbloom added 10 points and junior center Angie Leckson brought down six rebounds coming off the bench.
Mattson said the play of the centers, Leckson and Erin Powers, was key to the victory because the Eagles’ starting five had three players six feet or taller-including Lynsey Warren who is seventh in the league in blocked shots and third in offensive rebounds.
“When you’re dealing with big players you just have to work harder. You need to box out a little bit better and you need to be really, really aggressive around the basket,” Mattson said. “And I thought we did a really good job of that all night.”
Deacon said when the post players got in a groove it really opened up the game for the ‘Cats because they were able to shoot from the perimeter as well as score inside.
“If we can have a good outside game and good inside game then it is going to be tough for teams to beat us,” she said. “Because we just don’t want to rely on one person or specific individual.”
When the two sides of the offense are clicking, like against Ashland, starting center Powers said it helps the mindset of her and the entire team.
“I know that me, personally, my confidence went up a lot, and I think that showed, that our centers could compete with the best centers in the league,” Powers said. “And we have some of the best shooters in the league and hopefully we can put those two things together more in the future.”
The next match for the women’s team is an away game against the Findlay Oilers (8-5 and 3-5 in GLIAC), and coach Mattson said now that his team has found a rhythm, they will be hard to beat.
“I think we got a good understanding as how we need to play now,” he said. “I think our players have really picked that up and they’re doing it really well in the second half. Right now we will try and clean up the first half a little bit.”
The tip-off against the Oilers is at 5:30 p.m. in Findlay, Ohio.
The ‘Cats are in action again on Saturday in Hillsdale, Mich. against the Chargers, who are atop the GLIAC South at 7-1 and with a 12-1 overall mark. Both games can be heard on 100.3, The Point.
During the winter vacation the Women’s basketball team went 4-2 on the home floor with wins against Wayne State (70-68), UM-Duluth (93-76), Tiffin (69-60) and Ashland (81-75).
Head coach Troy Mattson said the break from school was just what his team needed to focus on basketball.
“We were able to spend more time with each other and players are able to spend more time with each other,” he said. “Right before break we didn’t play well in a couple of games when we’re on the road, and we didn’t play well against two really good teams at home and then that (the break) kind of got together and we really played well since then.”