Women’s basketball team recently ranked No. 24

Ray Bressette

The recently ranked women’s basketball team won five of six games over winter break; the team is currently No. 24 in the nation.

This weekend, the ’Cats return home to take on Grand Valley State and Ferris State.

The Wildcats defeated the Findlay Oilers, 71-66, Saturday, Dec. 14 in Findlay, Ohio. NMU battled back from a seven-point deficit with 5:54 remaining in the game and outscored the Oilers 16-4 the rest of the time remaining to escape with the win.

Junior guard Lauren Gruber led NMU in scoring with 16 points. The ’Cats went on to defeat the Hillsdale Chargers, 73-67, Monday, Dec. 16 in Hillsdale, Mich. Junior guard Alyssa Colla led the ’Cats in scoring with 24 points. Senior forward Annie Rubendunst followed with 14 points.

NMU opened the new year at home with a 79-55 win over the Tiffin Dragons on Thursday, Jan. 2 at Berry Events Center. The Wildcats followed up their performance at home with a 61-59 win over the Ohio Dominican Panthers on Saturday, Jan 4 for the team’s sixth straight victory.

Head coach Troy Mattson attributes the team’s success to their ability to close out games at the end.

“We’ve been doing enough in the last five minutes of each game to pull out close wins,” Mattson said. “Those are wins we might not have pulled out in the past. It really speaks to the maturity of this team, as they never panic down the stretch. They take care of the ball and play solid defense.”

The ’Cats lost their first GLIAC game of the season against the Ashland Eagles, 74-60, on Thursday, Jan. 9 in Ashland, Wis., ending the team’s six-game winning streak. Ashland, the defending national champion, sits with a conference record of 5-3 and an overall record of 7-5, good enough for first place in the South Division of the GLIAC.

The ’Cats were able to rebound from the loss with a 55-53 victory over Lake Erie on the road Saturday, Jan. 11 in Painesville, Ohio. Colla left the game with 12:07 left in the second half due to a concussion. Junior guard Sarah Miller led NMU in scoring with 13 points. Junior forward Abbey DeBruin and sophomore forward Nea Makela led the ’Cats in rebounds with 11 each.

Miller said she was proud of her team’s ability to respond to adversity on the road trip.

“Ashland was a tough game to lose,” Miller said. “We came out against Lake Erie mad and ready to get the win. It was tough to lose Alyssa at the end, but I think the team did a great job of sticking together to win the game.”

Grand Valley State University will come into Thursday’s match with a conference record of 6-2 and an overall record of 8-4. The Lakers are returning from a 69-52 loss against the Malone Pioneers on Saturday, Jan. 11 in Canton, Ohio.

Sophomore Bailey Cairnduff is averaging 13.3 points per game for the Lakers.

Miller said the Wildcats are looking forward to taking on their division opponent.

“Grand Valley has always been a tough rival,” Miller said. “I know everyone would love to beat them on our home court. We want to keep winning to make sure we stay on top of our tough division.”

The ’Cats are scheduled to play Ferris State at home in an 11 a.m. game Saturday, Jan. 18.  The Bulldogs recently lost 79-68 against the Walsh Cavaliers on Saturday, Jan. 11 in North Canton, Ohio. Ferris will visit Michigan Tech at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16 in Houghton, Mich. before heading to Berry Events Center on Saturday.