Injury-plagued ‘Cats host archrival Huskies Monday night

Ray Bressette

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Courtesy of NMU athletics

The NMU women’s basketball team welcomes the GLIAC North Division leading Michigan Tech Huskies to the Berry Events Center for a Monday rivalry night matchup.

Yet while their cross-state rivals to Marquette with bragging rights on the line, NMU head coach Troy Mattson maintains focus on climbing the GLIAC playoff picture.

“Our mentality is we have to win a big game soon,” Mattson said. “We have a big game against a big rival, and it would to be nice to win at least one of our next two games. If we can win a good game against a big team, it will really help us out with the standings.”

The Wildcats are tied with Findlay and Northwood for the seventh seed in conference, as all three teams sit with a 7-7 record. NMU has dropped matches to both teams, most recently a 76-46 loss to Northwood in their last outing on Saturday, Jan. 30, landing the ’Cats behind the tiebreakers to ninth place and sitting on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

The ’Cats have seen limited time due to injury from two of their three top scorers in junior guard Bre Gaspervich and Chloe Tompkins.

Gaspervich is suffering from a pair of sprained ankles, while Tompkins is also suffering from a sprained ankle and a stress fracture.

Mattson confirmed that both players will still play against Tech.

“They’re both hurt and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Mattson said. “We’ve rested them as much as we could, and now we need them to play big Monday night. They’re going to have to suck it up and play hurt.”

It is still unknown how much action the ’Cats will get from their two guards, as the team’s leaders in playing time were over the weekend. Gaspervich, who averages 32 minutes per game only saw the court for 17 minutes in Saturday’s loss, her lowest of the season. Tompkins, who averages 28 minutes per game, saw the lowest game time of her career Thursday where she played five minutes in a 51-44 win over Lake Superior State.

Tech has been running with a pair of wounded Huskies of their own, as their second and third leading scorers have missed playing time in their defending championship season. Junior guard Morgan Anderson didn’t suit up four-straight games for Tech before returning to the lineup last weekend, while her fellow junior guard Kelli Guy has missed two months due to injury.

Senior forward Danielle Blake has not missed a beat for the Huskies this season however, as her average of 13.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game was good enough to deem her “one of the league’s best players” in Mattson’s book.

Tech head coach Kim Cameron and Blake are trying to win their third-straight match over the Wildcats, as NMU has not beaten their rival since the 2014 GLIAC tournament when the ’Cats swept the championship. The Huskies returned the favor with a season sweep over NMU the following season on the road to a GLIAC championship of their own before reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Tech was favored to finish on top of the GLIAC North Division once again this season, which is where they currently sit with an 11-3 record which also gives them the second seed in the conference.

Mattson said the Huskies have remained a dangerous team throughout adversity.

“They’ve had an incredible season despite injuries,” Mattson said. “I give Cameron and her team a lot of credit. You would think when you lose your top players, the team would fall apart, but they’ve been able to maintain and stick together.”

Tech is averaging 72.6 points on their opponents this season, while the young Wildcat roster of eight freshmen is putting up an average of 54.9 points per game.

The Huskies have not faced a team with height that NMU possesses, as the lady Wildcats hold the highest height advantage in the GLIAC.

NMU’s six-foot four-inch freshman center Taylor Hodell’s 6.6 average rebounds per game leads her squad.

Mattson said NMU will need to use their height ability to limit the Huskies’ scoring if they’re going to pull off the upset on their homecourt.

“We need to be able to stop them in man-to-man defense and force them to make tough shots,” Mattson said. “We’re having a tough time scoring right now, and if Tech scores in the 60s or 70s, I don’t foresee us being able to beat them. We’ll really need to defend well to make it happen.”