Lady ’Cats fight to buzzer in home loss

Jon Young

It was a battle until the buzzer and the NMU women’s basketball team came up just short in a 63-60 home opener loss to the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs.

Head coach Troy Mattson said he understands the team needs to finish games.

“We need to learn to win the close games because we’re going to be in a lot of them,” Mattson said. “If we play with that type of energy and that type of commitment every, night, we’ll find a way to win them.”

With three seconds left in the game, senior point guard Chelsea Lyons drove baseline and found senior forward Hillary Bowling open in the corner for a three-pointer. The bucket put the ’Cats down 62-60.

After a timeout, the Bulldogs were able to inbound the pass and sink one of two free throws to secure the win.

Six Wildcat freshmen saw playing time and two started; a combination the veterans believe helped keep NMU close.

“We have a lot of heart,” Lyons said. “That’s a good thing that the freshmen bring, they bring energy and they bring a lot of intensity.”

Freshman guard Alyssa Colla had a big performance in her first game as a Wildcat, putting up 12 points on 5-9 shooting to go along with five rebounds. Colla said the college game is a big jump from high school.

“It’s definitely way different,” Colla said. “It’s a way faster game, way stronger and more intense. Coach just told me to not be passive, keep being aggressive and going to the basket.”

The Bulldogs lead by 32-31 at the half but never lead by more than seven in the second half. Duluth did however hold a 52-39 edge on the boards, including 21 offensive rebounds. Mattson said defensive rebounding is key in close games.

“We couldn’t get the big defensive rebounds when we needed them,” Mattson said. “I know going in that their size was going to be an issue for us and it became a major issue, especially in the second half. They continued to pound us on the offensive glass and got second shot opportunities.”

NMU’s last lead came with 17:36 left to play as Bowling nailed a three pointer to go up 39-37. After Duluth tied the game, NMU missed on three straight three-point attempts.

“I let us take three bad shots in a row in a stretch where I thought we could’ve got back into the game,” Mattson said. “We have to learn from that, we need to come down and get a better shot.”

The ’Cats defense was active and forced the Bulldogs into 16 turnovers. Mattson said he liked the intensity the team displayed.

“We’re going to be aggressive, we had a trapping type defense and it worked really well at times,” Mattson said. “I was really excited the way we played against an athletic team.”

Lyons paced the ’Cats statistically, recording a team high 17 points, 8 rebounds and two assists. Mattson said her athleticism is a problem for defenders.

“She can turn the corner on anybody. She’s just so explosive going to the basket,” Mattson said. “It’s a great weapon to have because not many people have a point guard with that kind of speed and strength with the ability to go and finish around the basket.”

Bowling chipped in 11 points for the ’Cats and went 3-7 from three point range. Freshmen forward Abbey DeBruin had nine points and four rebounds in her first game.

Next Friday, the Wildcats hit the road as they travel to Midland to compete in the Northwood Classic. At 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, they tipoff with the Alma College Scots and against the Urbana University Blue Knights at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19.