The NMU women’s basketball team is at .500 and hopes are high for the first home game and conference opener this week.
On Nov. 24, the Wildcats (2-2, 0-0 GLIAC) were defeated by University of Minnesota-Duluth, 49-53. Junior guard Steffani Stoeger was the leading scorer with 12 points. Stoeger and senior forward Mariah Dunham had eight rebounds each.
Head coach Troy Mattson said the team lost because of its low shooting percentage. The ‘Cats shot 29.9 percent from the floor, making 20 of 67 shots.
“We made some great plays and just couldn’t make a basket,” he said.
On Nov. 28, the ‘Cats lost 68-75 to University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Dunham led the team with 33 points, followed by sophomore guard Elicia Derusha with 14. Derusha also had a game-high nine rebounds.
Dunham, who also had eight rebounds, was named the GLIAC North Division Player of the Week for her efforts. Dunham said it’s a good feeling to be player of the week, but what she really wanted was a win for the team.
“As a team I expect us to do great things,” she said. “I truly believe 100 percent in my team and my coaches that we will be a contender for the conference.”
Dunham is the team’s leading scorer with 49 points (20 of 40) so far, with an average of 16.3 ppg, and Mattson said she is going to be a major impact player for the program this season.
On Dec. 1, the Wildcats defeated Finlandia University (1-6), 76-47. Senior guard Christa Erickson led the ‘Cats with 16 points.
Mattson said the team played better overall than Finlandia did, and he saw the ‘Cats honing their skills for their home opener.
“One thing we did a real good job of is not fouling. [Finlandia] didn’t get the bonus until late in the first half and late in the second half. That’s one thing we’re trying to do, is make sure the other team isn’t on the free throw line the entire half,” he said.
The Wildcats will play their home and GLIAC conference opener on Thursday, Dec. 3, at 5:30 p.m. in the Berry Events Center against the Northwood University Timberwolves (2-0 overall). Mattson said the game is going to be a great game between evenly matched rivals.
“We’re excited to start conference play. Northwood is probably one of the top two or three teams in this league right now, and we got them twice in a couple of weeks here so we’re excited about the opportunity to play them,” he said.
Mattson said Northwood plays similarly to the Wildcats, with a tough man-to-man defense and a fast break offense.
“They want to score in the open court first. They move the ball up and down the court really well, they run a lot of the same plays we do. Hopefully, when we get on our home court we’ll relax a bit more when we’re shooting and start making some shots that we’re supposed to,” he said.
Dunham said she has total faith that her teammates will step up.
“It’s just a matter of our shots falling, and they’ll fall in the next couple of games. That cap on the basket is going to come off sometime,” she said.
The ‘Cats have eight games beginning at the end of this week all the way through winter break.
Dunham said the players do have to fend off loneliness because most students aren’t up at school, but there are benefits to practicing and playing during break.
“I think it’s great to not worry about school and just play basketball. It’s the best time of the year to focus on stuff you need to focus on,” she said.