’Cats ride wins

Ray Bressette

The women’s basketball team is riding a four-game win streak as they hit the road to take on rival Lake Superior State University and Northwood University this weekend.

(Anthony Viola/NW) Junior guard Lauren Gruber (10) gets into the game alongside head coach Troy Mattson. The Wildcats (13-6) finished with a one-point victory over GLIAC visitor Saginaw Valley State University (10-8) Thursday, Feb. 13.
(Anthony Viola/NW)
Junior guard Lauren Gruber (10) gets into the game alongside head coach Troy Mattson. The Wildcats (13-6) finished with a one-point victory over GLIAC visitor Saginaw Valley State University (10-8) Thursday, Feb. 13.

The ’Cats defeated the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals, 64-63, Thursday, Feb. 13 at Berry Events Center. With 5:17 left in the game, NMU trailed the Cardinals, 54-45, before the Wildcats went on a 19-9 run to steal the win. Junior guard Lauren Gruber scored two free throws to put the Wildcats ahead of the Cardinals in the final seconds of the game and led the ’Cats in scoring with a career-high 25 points.

NMU followed up their performance with an 84-69 win over the No. 19-ranked Wayne State University Warriors, Saturday, Feb. 15, at home. The Wildcats shot 40.7 percent from the floor, making 24 of 59 shots. Junior guard Alyssa Colla, who was suffering from the flu, led the game in scoring with 26 points. The top rebounder for the ’Cats, junior forward Abbey DeBruin, finished with five offensive rebounds and nine defensive rebounds. DeBruin was suffering from a separated shoulder in the game.

Head coach Troy Mattson said despite injuries and illness, his veteran players were able to come through in the clutch.

“Abby had an incredible game,” Mattson said. “She’s pretty banged up, and she’s out there grinding away and has a great game for us. Alyssa was dead tired, and for someone to come out and have a performance like that is amazing. A lot of credit goes to those two.”

With three games remaining, the ’Cats sit at third in the GLIAC with a record of 13-6. Ashland University is in fourth with the same record, and fifth place Malone is one game behind at 12-7. Rival Michigan Tech is two games ahead of NMU in second place at 15-4.

The ’Cats will travel to Sault Ste. Marie Thursday, Feb. 20, to take on the LSSU Lakers at 5:30 p.m. in James Norris Physical Education Center.

The Lakers sit in last of the GLIAC North Division with a 5-14 conference record, 5-20 overall. The Lakers are on a six-game losing streak, with their most recent game a 72-68 loss at home to Ferris State University in overtime on Saturday, Feb. 15.

The last time the Lakers won was 70-57 over NMU on Thursday, Jan. 30 at Berry Events Center. NMU shot 30.2 percent from the floor in the loss, making 16 of 53 shots. Colla led the ’Cats in scoring with 23 points in the loss.

Junior guard Stephanie Fisher is leading the Lakers’ offense, averaging 11.8 points in their 25 games this season.

Mattson said the team knows the importance of beating LSSU.

“Hopefully we’ll come in with a different mindset,” Mattson said. “I think we understand the situation we’ve put ourselves in with the standings. We have a lot of implications going on regionally, but we’re going to have to win basketball games to let it happen for us.”

NMU will close out the season series with the Northwood Timberwolves on Saturday, Feb. 22 in Midland, Mich. The Wildcats defeated Northwood, 74-62, Saturday Feb. 1 at Berry Events Center. Sophomore forward Nea Makela led the Wildcats in scoring with 16 points in the win.

Gruber said the ’Cats will need to slow down the Timberwolves speed to win on Saturday.

“They’re just a really strong team,” Gruber said. “They’re a fast team on the road, but at home they’re especially fast up and down the court. They move the ball well, so transition defense will be especially important.”

The Timberwolves have lost five of their last seven games, and are coming off a 70-67 loss at Grand Valley State University in overtime. Despite their recent struggles, the Timberwolves are in the middle of the GLIAC tournament run as they sit in eighth place in the GLIAC with a 12-11 record. Sophomore forward Lauren Robak is averaging 16.7 points per game for Northwood.

Colla said the team aims to finish the regular season strong.

“It’s not an easy place to play,” Colla said. “We have to come out ready from the start. We have two big road games before finishing with Tech at home, and we have to make sure we finish the season off right.”