Offense sputters in Minnesota road trip

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BETTER BASKETBALL—Senior forward Erin Honkala drives to the basket during a game in the 2018-19 season against Lewis University. The Wildcats are looking to rebound on the offensive end. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics.

Travis Nelson

After averaging 44.5 points per game in two games in Minnesota, the NMU Women’s Basketball team is looking to improve their offense as the season carries on.

The Wildcats drop to 1-3 on the young season after falling 83-57 against Minnesota State University-Mankato (MSU) on Thursday, Nov. 14, and 45-32 to the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) on Saturday, Nov. 16. Head Coach Troy Mattson talked about his team’s issues on the offensive end from the two losses.

“It was an offensive struggle all weekend for us, how will I sum it up? We’re not even going to worry about Thursday because that’s not the way we’re going to play,” Mattson said. “We got caught up in a game that we don’t want to play that way, and I allowed us to play that way. We learned a lot from it.”

Under Mattson, the Wildcats are a defense-orientated team, and got into a scoring match against MSU, and that isn’t the Wildcats style. Mattson said that his teams haven’t been built that way over the past couple of years, and that is why it is important for the ‘Cats to play great defense. NMU committed 26 turnovers in a fast paced game, and MSU capitalized with 24 points off of turnovers. The Mavericks outscored the Wildcats in all four quarters, resulting in a 47-35 halftime lead and 83-57 final score.

Junior guard/forward Lexi Smith led the Wildcats in scoring with 13 points in just 16 minutes, making four of eight shots. Senior forward Erin Honkala also scored in double digits with 10 points along with six rebounds. Junior guard Amber Huebner had an efficient game for NMU with eight points, five assists and five rebounds. The team shot just 5-25 from the 3-point line for a total of only 20%. The ‘Cats looked to shoot better in its next game against the UMD Bulldogs, but the shots weren’t falling all weekend.

 NMU only shot 27.5% from the field in the 45-32 loss to UMD, but Mattson was pleased overall with his team’s play as they played good defense and that style fits the team.

“We made our adjustments on Friday and came back and played against Duluth, which is the tell-tale of what we’re trying to accomplish here, and I thought we played really well,” Mattson said. “For this point in the season we played well against Duluth, we held them to 45 points, that’s a good basketball team. The problem was we just had this nightmare evening of putting the ball into the basket, and it just didn’t go in.”

The Wildcats had three quarters where they scored in single digits, and found themselves trailing 26-13 at halftime after only scoring five second quarter points. Both teams scoring 19 points in the second half, and that gave the Bulldogs a 13-point victory. Preseason All-GLIAC senior forward Jessica Schultz struggled on the weekend for NMU, combining to shoot 2-20 in the team’s two games. Honkala had another good outing, posting 11 points and nine rebounds. 

Northern will now take its home court for the first time of the season, as St. Cloud State University (SCSU) and Concordia University-St. Paul come to town on Saturday, Nov. 23 and Sunday, Nov. 24. Mattson said that both teams bring similar challenges that last weekend’s opponents did.

“Same types of teams, St. Cloud State is very similar to Mankato and Duluth, they’re big, athletic, strong and mature,” Mattson said. “Then the same thing’s going to happen when we play Concordia St. Paul on Sunday. I play these teams for a reason, it’s to toughen us up and to find out where we’re at and what we need to work on.”

Another pair of challenging games are awaiting the Wildcats this weekend, but this from the Berry Events Center. Tip-off between NMU and SCSU is at noon on Saturday, Nov. 23 in the first of two games.