Women’s basketball looks for road win

Brice Burge

Road trips are one of the fundamental aspects of sports. It can help a team bond together through the miles traveled on a bus and the sights seen at other schools. However, the Wildcats are having problems with these trips on the road, as they haven’t won outside the friendly confines of the Berry Events Center since the Concordia Tournament over Thanksgiving Break.

“When you go into someone else’s gym, it’s always hard to shoot,” said guard Steffani Stoeger. “We have to get tougher in the mental aspect. If a team gets confidence early, it’s tougher to overcome, especially when (that team) is at home.”

Senior guard Kellie Rietveld makes the fast-break layup against Lake Superior State in the Wildcats’ last home game. Northern will try to drive the ball this weekend against Hillsdale (12-4) and Northwood (8-8). // Justin Key/NW

That trend continued this weekend as the Wildcats packed their bags for Allendale and Big Rapids to face the Grand Valley State Lakers and Ferris State Bulldogs, respectively. Northern found themselves at the losing end of both games.

“We need to go back to basics of playing simple and smart basketball,” said NMU guard Kellie Rietveld. “In practice, we are working at getting our (team) sync back.”

NMU lost to No. 18 Grand Valley 70-45 in a physical game on Thursday, Jan. 20. Stoeger led the ’Cats with 12 points, two assists and two steals. Forward Staci Beckel added eight points to go along with her team-leading five rebounds. Forward Hillary Bowling also added 11 points, nine of which came from behind the three-point line. However the double-digit scoring performances by Briauna Taylor, Alex Stelfox and Tori Klewicki-McNutt, along with the Lakers’ 61.5 shooting percentage in the first half, were too much to overcome.

“When we make the small mistakes, they begin adding up,”      Rietveld said. “We need to make the extra passes that weren’t made and have better one-on-one defense. If we continue to have mental mistakes, we won’t be on the winning side.”

The trip did not get better for Northern, as the team fell to the surging Bulldogs 74-44, who had just come off a home upset against the Huskies and is currently on a three-game winning streak. Ferris State was led by GLIAC North Player of the Week; guard Becci Houdek, who scored 17 points, with four assists and four rebounds. Only Rietveld was able to score in the double digits with 12 points. Next was forward Jackie Davey with eight points from the bench.

“Our defense wasn’t intense enough,” Stoeger said. “We also weren’t getting into the post enough, and they both hurt us.”

The offensive problems continued for the Wildcats, as they have averaged 45.4 ppg during their five-game losing streak and have averaged 54 ppg for all road games this season. At home, the scoring isn’t as poor, with NMU averaging 72.6 ppg.

The team will be leaving the travel-sized offense on the bus this week, as the Wildcats will be setting up at home for a Thursday-Saturday home stand against the Hillsdale Chargers tonight and the Northwood Timberwolves on Saturday. The Chargers are a high-flying offense, as they are second in the GLIAC for scoring offense and three-point shooting percentage. The T’wolves are the exact opposite, relying on their defense to win close games, as their scoring margin for the season is +0.2 ppg.

“When a game turns a different direction, everyone has to turn back to the right direction,” Reitveld said. “We’re excited about Hillsdale, because we’re excited about changing the direction of our season.”