The NMU women’s basketball team split their home games last weekend and will be on the road for two conference games this weekend.
On Jan. 14, the Wildcats (10-5 overall, 7-3 GLIAC) were defeated in overtime by the University of Findlay Oilers (12-3 overall, 7-3 GLIAC) 80-83. Junior guard Kellie Rietveld missed a 3-pointer at the overtime buzzer but was still second in points with 18, behind junior guard Steffani Stoeger with 21. Senior guard Christa Erickson earned a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
NMU head coach Troy Mattson said the team did well at the beginning of the game but lacked heart after halftime.
“We just had a bad first four or five minutes at the start of the half. We didn’t defend hard enough, we didn’t commit ourselves to playing good enough on the offense and then we turned it over too many times,” he said.
Rietveld said while she wanted the basket at the buzzer, the fact that she missed still serves as an experience upon which to improve.
“The fact that it didn’t go in just means that I have to have the confidence and the timing so when the opportunity comes again, I’ll put it in,” she said.
She also said a defeat serves as a point where teams can step back and reevaluate their game plan.
“The loss against Findlay makes us work harder and look at what we need to do to win. You have to take what the defense gives you and play to the best of your ability,” she said.
On Saturday, Jan. 16, the ‘Cats were victorious against the Chargers of Hillsdale College (6-8 overall, 6-4 GLIAC), 77-73. Stoeger again led with another 21 points, followed by Rietveld with 16. Despite having come from off the bench, junior center Erin Powers earned a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Stoeger was named as the GLIAC North Division Player of the Week for her performance in the weekend’s games. She was unavailable for comment, but Mattson said Stoeger is one of the team’s key players.
“She’s just a great person, and she plays as hard as anybody in our league. She’s been a big part of our turnaround, and for her to be able to get some accolades on the side is outstanding, but I can guarantee you she’s worried about one thing, and that’s winning basketball games,” Mattson said.
Senior guard Mariah Dunham was cleared to play against Findlay after sustaining a back injury at Michigan Tech on Saturday, Jan. 2, but was benched after 26 minutes because of recurring back pain. She is out once again, now for an indeterminate amount of time.
However, senior Holly Cole has returned to the rotation, which Mattson said is a big help to the team.
“Just giving us another person in that rotation helps us a lot with our stability and game,” he said.
The ‘Cats will head on the road to take on the Lake Superior State University Lakers (9-5 overall, 6-4 GLIAC) on Thursday, Jan. 21.
Mattson said a victory against LSSU will give the team a little breathing room between them and the teams behind them but also that the team must focus.
“We got to make sure that we’re defending properly, and we need to take care of the basketball on the road. You get away with it at home sometimes, but on the road you’re definitely not going to be able to get away with it,” he said.
The team will then travel to face the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals (4-11 overall, 2-8 GLIAC) on Saturday, Jan. 23. Mattson said that Saginaw is a progressing team but that they shouldn’t be underestimated.
“Saginaw has struggled a little bit, but they’re an improved team over last year, and we need to take all precautions and make sure that our team continues to get better. If we play well, we’re going to be able to beat just about anybody in our league,” Mattson said.