The women’s basketball team celebrates every win with a Wildcat chant, but on Saturday afternoon the team chant was filled with even more excitement than usual after defeating rival Michigan Tech, 69-60.
Prior to the game on Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Berry Events Center, the Huskies were 11-3 in the GLIAC.
The Wildcats stepped on the floor as the underdog with a 7-7 conference record, and were able to clinch the win over Tech. NMU improved the conference record to 8-7, forcing the Huskies down to second in the conference rankings.
“We were so excited,” said sophomore forward Maria Almquist following the ’Cats comeback from a 15 point deficit in the second period. “We celebrate every win with a chant at the end of the game, but, on Saturday, it went on extra long. We all jumped on each other afterwards.”
The team excitement came when the ’Cats more than doubled the Huskies on rebounds, taking down 48 over Michigan Tech’s 20 to end the game. Sophomore forward Abbey DeBruin accounted for one-fourth of the team’s rebounds, as she grabbed 12 for the books.
Head coach Troy Mattson said the rebounding was a huge factor in the win for Northern Michigan.
“The girls wanted the game more than Tech, and we really beat them up on the boards,” Mattson said. “We had 13 offensive rebounds in the second half, and the girls and the coaches were all excited that we played so well in the last 15 minutes of the game.”
Northern Michigan was down by 12 points at the half, 30-18.
Michigan Tech was able to raise the lead to as much as a 15 -point advantage with 15:07 left in the game, which was the point at which Mattson said the girls played their hardest.
Sophomore guard Alyssa Colla finished with a team-high of 22 points and ended up 100 percent from the free throw line, sinking 12 out of 12 shots from the charity stripe.
Sophomore guard Lauren Gruber finished with 14 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in addition to making 100 percent of her shots from the free throw line. Gruber made 6 out of 6 to add to the Wildcat victory margin. Freshman forward Nea Makela contributed 12 points while chipping in six rebounds.
Freshman guard Anna Liewen, who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, said the turning point in the game was a play that happened just after that 15-minute mark.
“The turning point came when we made a stop on defense, so it was our ball,” Liewen said. “Down the court Nea missed a layup, and I saved the ball from going out of bounce. Alyssa got the ball from me and took a shot and missed, but Lauren got an offensive rebound and made the basket. We more than doubled them on the boards, and if we play like that we can beat anyone we want to if we just keep that consistency.”
The team finished with 46 percent on baskets from the floor, and also finished 79 percent from the charity stripe, making 27 of the 34 free shots taken.
Mattson said during the game the team focused on three primary goals that needed to be accomplished for the win.
“We started to attack on offense the second half, and we said that there were three things to focus on,” Mattson said. “We needed to beat up on the glass, get the ball inside to the centers, which we did by getting the ball to Nea (Makela) and attack on the dribble, and everybody did these three things.”
This weekend the Wildcats will take the court at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Berry Events Center to play third-ranked Grand Valley State University.
At 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9 the girls take the home court again to play Ferris State University.
Mattson said the win this past weekend will serve as motivation for the difficulty of the upcoming games.
“Anytime you beat a rival school, you feel good,” Mattson said. “The girls did it with complete effort and that’s where they will continue to get better and bring some energy.”