Wildcats’ comeback falls short in home opener

Ray Bressette

Despite a 21-point comeback, the women’s basketball team suffered their first loss of the season to Concordia University 70-69 in overtime Sunday, Nov. 23 in their home opener at Berry Events Center.

Senior guard Alyssa Colla said the team didn’t have the right mentality in the first half.

File Photo (Anthony Viola/NW)
File Photo (Anthony Viola/NW)

“We needed to realize we were playing on our home court,” Colla said. “Throughout the first half, we felt like we were playing at their own gym in Minnesota, and a lot of their points were coming off fast breaks.

We didn’t come ready to play, and their role players went off and killed us. We shut down their key players but the next group of players were the ones who beat us.”

In the first half, the Wildcats were 14.8 percent in field goal percentage, and faced their largest deficit 31-13 with 1:14 remaining in the first half. Senior guard Alyssa Colla scored the last five points of the half to cut Concordia’s lead to 34-17 heading into halftime.

The ’Cats fought back and tied the game 57-57 with 2:08 remaining in regulation, and had their first lead of the afternoon 61-59 off a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Bre Gaspervich with 25 seconds remaining in regulation.

With 13 seconds remaining, junior forward Kendall Martenet fouled Concordia’s senior forward Anika Whiting where she sank two free throws that sent the game into overtime.

Concordia jumped out to a six-point lead 2:19 into overtime at 67-61, before NMU scored eight of the next 10 points, and a three-pointer from Colla tied the game with 1:43 remaining in overtime.

33 seconds later, Martenet fouled Concordia’s freshman guard Lauren Shifflett, where she was 1-2 at the free throw line giving the Wildcats the ball trailing 70-69. Both teams would miss a pair of shots each before NMU’s senior forward Abbey DeBruin appeared to give NMU the opportunity to win the game at the free throw line, but replay showed time had expired before the shot ending the game.

Senior Guard Lauren Gruber recorded a double-double in the loss, scoring 12 points with 10 rebounds.

Colla led the ’Cats in scoring with two points. DeBruin also scored double digits with 14 points.

NMU head coach Troy Mattson said the loss was from mistakes the team can correct.

“This game was about us not making shots in the first half,” Mattson said. “We were rushing and couldn’t get the ball in the net. We executed fairly well but missed a lot of shots we should have been able to make. Give the girls credit, as we started getting the ball in the basket in the second half which gave us a chance to win. There’s no shame in what happened. We competed for 40 minutes and that’s all I ever ask. If we do that every single night, we’re going to be a real nice basketball team.”

With the loss, the Wildcats are 2-1 on the season heading into their bye week. The ’Cats will open conference play when they visit the Walsh University Pioneers are 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4 in Canton, Ohio. NMU will than visit the Malone University Pioneers in a rematch of last year’s GLIAC championship, when the Wildcats defeated the Pioneers 53-49 Sunday, March. 9 in Detroit.

Gruber said the ’Cats will be prepared heading into conference play off the break.

“Our confidence is fine, its just a matter of being mentally tough and coming back from a loss like this, Gruber said. “It’s nice we get a break where we can go home, get away for a little bit then come back and refocus in time for conference play, which is going to be beneficial for the team.”