Wildcats get home sweep

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HUDDLE UP—NMU Women’s Basketball Head Coach Troy Mattson talks with his team during the Wildcats’ 60-55 victory over University of Wisconsin-Parkside on Thursday, Feb. 6. Travis Nelson/NW

Travis Nelson

After losing in the worst way imaginable against the University of Wisconsin-Parkside (UWP) in the first match-up, a buzzer beater after winning by double digits, the NMU Women’s Basketball team took care of business on its home court the second time around. 

In a battle throughout the entirety of the game, the Wildcats picked up a 60-55 victory over the GLIAC North Division leading Rangers on Thursday, Feb. 6. Northern found itself one game back of UWP after the win, putting itself in good position in the division race.

“It was a huge win, they were two games up on us in the GLIAC standings, so we knew we had to come out and execute everything correctly,” sophomore guard Liz Lutz said. “We were close last game but they hit a game-winner, and we weren’t close enough. We knew we had to do stuff right and make sure that we came out with a win.”

Lutz’s performance was a big factor to why the ‘Cats won the game, she had 14 points and shot an efficient 50% from the field (4-8). Senior forward Jessica Schultz went 10-15 to lead the game in scoring with 23 points while adding eight rebounds. Another bright spot for NMU was the return of freshman Makaylee Kuhn, who scored nine points after missing the last two games due to injury. Those three players led the Wildcats in the scoring department, and every point was needed against a tough opponent like the Rangers.

It [the game] was good, that’s a good team we just beat. It’s a match-up nightmare for us, most of the time I think we’re a match-up nightmare for people, but against them it’s not good for us,” Head Coach Troy Mattson said. “We can’t play man-to-man defense against them, they have five guards out there that can all shoot the basketball.”

UWP’s unique lineup forced Mattson to go to a zone defense, a defense he says that he doesn’t utilize often. As expected, NMU struggled at times on defense, but ultimately made enough plays on both sides of the court to get it done.

A back-and-forth first half saw the Rangers go into the locker room with a 29-28 lead, both offenses played well. Northern bounced back in the third quarter, outscoring UWP 20-17 to take back the lead, 48-46. After many points were scored in the third, the fourth and final quarter was a different story on the defensive end. Both teams didn’t give an inch, and that’s the style that the Wildcats like to play. 

UWP averages 72.3 points per game on the season, and NMU held them to an average of 56.5 points per game in two match-ups between the teams this season. The Rangers were held to only nine points in the fourth quarter, and the ‘Cats got its revenge with the five-point win. 

“It feels great [to hold Parkside to nine fourth quarter points], they’re a great team and they score plus-70 points a game,” Lutz said. “We knew we had to hold them the whole game but especially the fourth quarter because they’re a team that can really get going offensively.”

The ‘Cats didn’t have long to enjoy the UWP result, as they played two days later against the Purdue-Northwest University (PNWU) Pride on Saturday, Feb. 8. Schultz scored a career-high in points last week with 26 points, but that didn’t last too long. Against PNWU, Schultz went nuclear with a new career performance of 36 points and eight rebounds. 

Despite Schultz’s great game, and the Pride being only 6-16 on the season, NMU found itself in another close game down the stretch. After trailing by one point at the end of the third quarter, the ‘Cats outscored PNWU 15-10 in the fourth quarter for a 57-53 win. Records need to be thrown out of the window this late in the season, it’s about winning games down the stretch for Mattson and his team.

“There’s no night off, it’s crunch time anyway, it’s February. You need to play your best basketball right now, you need to find ways to win right now, we’re in the hunt,” Mattson said. “We have a chance to host a first round playoff game, and a chance to still win the North. We have a lot of work ahead of us but at least we’re a team that has that opportunity so when we come to practice, we don’t act like the season’s over. We have a lot to look forward to.”

The Wildcats have five regular season games left, including three of them at home. The two remaining road games are this weekend for NMU, as they travel to Lake Superior State University (LSSU) on Thursday, Feb. 13, and Ferris State University (FSU) on Saturday, Feb. 15. According to Mattson, the ‘Cats are expected to have senior forward Erin Honkala back in the line-up after missing the past five games with an injury. 

Tip-off between the Wildcats and Lakers is set for 5:30 p.m.