The NMU women’s basketball team went 5-1 over the winter break and will play at home on Thursday, Jan. 14, and on Saturday, Jan. 16, in two conference games before heading
back on the road for the rest of the month.
The Wildcats (9-4, 6-2 GLIAC) were victorious on Jan. 2 against the then No. 1 ranked Michigan Technological University Huskies (12-1 overall, 7-1 GLIAC), by a score of 53-47. Tech is now ranked No. 5 according to the USA Today ESPN Coaches’ Poll.
Head coach Troy Mattson said the victory was well-earned through the players’ hard work on the court.
“To say that we played well enough to beat them and put ourselves in a position to compete for the conference championship makes the team feel good,” Mattson said.
The Huskies’ 47 points was a season low for them as was their .306 field goal percentage.
The ‘Cats held onto the ball tightly with a season low of eight turnovers, and they were 18-60 from the floor.
Senior forward Mariah Dunham led the team with 16 points, followed by sophomore forward Hillary Bowling with 14. Bowling’s performance included going 3 of 4 from the 3-point line. Sophomore guard Elicia Derusha led with 10 rebounds, followed by Dunham with eight.
The Wildcats had 44 rebounds against the Huskies as well, the most rebounds the Huskies have allowed this season.
Senior guard Christa Erickson said the team was glad to deliver Tech’s only loss during this season so far.
“We were really jacked for that game – that’s the word everybody used. We were so excited to play at their place especially because we should have beat them at home. To go up there and beat them on their home court was the best revenge,” Erickson said.
The ‘Cats narrowly lost to Tech 59-64 when the teams played in Marquette earlier this season. Even so, the revenge was a long time in the making: the last victory against Tech was a 68-60 home match on Feb. 16, 2004.
On Jan. 7, the ‘Cats earned a win against the Tiffin University Dragons (5-8 overall, 2-6 GLIAC), 44-36. Senior center Angie Leckson led with 12 points, followed by junior guard Kellie Rietveld with 11.
Mattson said defense was again the key to victory, but thought the offense looked a bit sluggish. The team had 51 rebounds, 35 of them defensively, and four steals.
“We struggled to score. We had to make some adjustments offensively as to who’s going to be able to step up and make shots, but defensively we were incredible,” he said.
The Wildcats were defeated by Ashland (6-6 overall, 3-5 GLIAC), 64-69 on Jan. 9. Junior guard Steffani Stoeger led the team with 18 points.
Despite the loss, Erickson earned a double-double with 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Mattson attributed the defeat to physical fatigue and a subsequent loss of concentration. The offense was tired, he said, due to two key player injuries.
Mariah Dunham sustained a back injury during the game against Michigan Tech and is still questionable for this weekend. Dunham leads the team with 138 points, 12.5 points per game and an average of 5.6 rebounds per game.
In addition, senior guard Holly Cole suffered an ankle injury before the break from which she has yet to return. Mattson said the team is rotating fewer players, which means less time to rest.
“Our biggest issue right now is getting bodies back on the court. I have to get these two people healthy so that we can get back to playing nine or 10 people, stay as physically fresh out on the court as possible, and mentally also,” he said.
Erickson said the ‘Cats are missing their teammates, but the team can persevere if they work together.
“Holly is a huge two-position for us so to come in and not have her unlimited range at the 3-point line makes it hard for us. We know how to bounce back and people have stepped up,” Erickson said.
The Wildcats will take on University of Findlay Oilers (11-2 overall, 6-2 GLIAC) on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 5:30 p.m. in the Vandament Arena. The Oilers are currently at the top of the GLIAC South Division.
Mattson said Findlay is going to be a challenge to the Wildcats, especially if the team’s injured remain questionable.
“They’re very similar to us as a team without Dunham in the game. If she’s able to play, I believe we’re a better basketball team. But if she’s not out there it’s going to be a very, very close game,” Mattson said.
The Wildcats will play another home game on Jan. 16 against the Chargers of Hillsdale College (6-6 overall, 6-2 GLIAC) at 11 a.m.
In regards to season progression, Erickson said she believes the team has progressed to a point where they can work on honing their skills.
“Each team was different over break, but we take experiences from each game. We’re prepared for whatever comes at us because we’ve seen just about everything,” Erickson said.