Wildcats fall to No. 4 Hillsdale in close one

gordon.beedle

Finding positives in a loss – especially a close road loss – is one of the difficulties every coach faces, but for head women’s basketball coach Troy Mattson, finding the positives in the Wildcats’ 78-67 loss to Hillsdale (8-2 GLIAC 13-2 overall) was simple.

“We played well against a real good basketball team on their home court. And I was real happy with our effort and the way we went about it,” he said. “I think everybody said, ‘We had a chance to play with one of the best teams in the country.’ Even a couple girls after the game said, ‘Coach, we can beat them.’

“So there were a lot of positive things that came out of that loss.”

Last Saturday NMU (4-6 GLIAC 9-6 overall) squared off against Hillsdale, who is ranked fourth in the USA Today/ESPN poll and seventh in the coaches’ poll.

In the second half, NMU closed the Chargers’ lead to just one point, but after a traveling call, NMU went on a five-minute scoring draught and Hillsdale walked away with the victory.

“It wasn’t anything that we were doing,” Mattson said. “They (Hillsdale) were just executing well on offense. They’re a good basketball team. They have five good players on the court at all times. And we really did play well.”

Mattson added his team had been playing well since returning from winter break, and the reason for this is the mentality in the locker room and on the court that has been embedded mainly by the seniors.

“If you want to be a good basketball team, your juniors and seniors have to be your leaders, and they have to show that they have been through the wars and they need to play well,” Mattson said.

NMU has been through some close battles again this season having 10 games being decided by 10 points or less.

Next on the schedule for the ‘Cats will most likely be another tight game, as they face Lake Superior State (4-6 GLIAC 11-7 overall ) on Thursday. LSSU is tied with NMU in the GLIAC rankings.

Mattson said the Lakers bring in another big inside game, and the only answer for that is aggressive play on both sides of the court.

Senior Lakers’ center Jaclyn Armstrong is second in the league in scoring and she is backed up on the team by three players who are 6 foot or taller.

“We need to contain her. We are not going to stop her. We need to keep her numbers as low as possible,” Mattson said of Armstrong.

Helping with the cause for the ‘Cats will be senior post player Cassie Hegbloom and she said the physical part will be just one element of Thursday’s battle.

“It is not only a physical game but it is a mental game,” she said. “There are a lot of ups and downs and you have to have the same mentality that we’re going to win no matter what.”

This mentality is also the reason, Hegbloom said, for more games ending in the ‘Cats favor this year.

Fellow senior Kelsey Deacon said the ‘Cats also have the experience now to win those close games.

“We have lost a lot of overtime games and we’ve lost a lot of close games last year,” she said. “So just having all that underneath our belts and knowing what to do in those situations like that will help us win.”

Thursday’s game against the Lakers starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Berry Event Center. This will start a four game home stand for the ‘Cats with the next game Saturday at 11 a.m.

Deacon said winning these games at home will be a great transition into the second half of the season.

“To go out and play strong and win against them will give us a huge amount of confidence to finish out the rest of the season,” she said.