Wildcat Women’s Basketball heads downstate to battle Northwood in GLIAC clash

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CLAWING FOR CONTENTION—The NMU Women’s Basketball team travels across the bridge to Midland to face Northwood in a crucial series between two 6-3 teams. Travis Nelson/NW

Travis Nelson

The NMU Women’s Basketball team looks to pick up on its momentum from its sweep of Lake Superior State this past weekend when they travel below the bridge to take on the Northwood Timberwolves.

Northern (6-3) is in a three-way tie for third place in the conference with Ashland and Northwood, and the Wildcats look to pick up where they left off with two decisive wins over LSSU. Head Coach Troy Mattson felt his team made progress, but his focus is for the ‘Cats to become more consistent instead of different players performing well on different nights. That message escalates with the makeup of NMU’s upcoming schedule.

“It’s important that we’re consistent, I don’t have to worry about us being great or very good,” Mattson said in his Monday Zoom press conference. “I want us to be consistent in what we’re doing and if we can show consistency out there, we’ll have a chance to win some of these games.”

The Wildcats take on the Timberwolves Feb.5-6, then come back home to play ninth-ranked Grand Valley State on Feb.13-14 before hosting Michigan Tech on Feb. 16. GVSU and Tech are tied for first in the GLIAC at 8-1, so the road doesn’t get any easier moving forward. That is what makes this series so crucial for NMU, going 0-5 is a real possibility. Winning some of these upcoming games could put the Wildcats right in the GLIAC title race as the season begins to wind down.

“We’re really going to find out here in the next five games, we have a tough, tough stretch here. This is a real tough five-game stretch and I think we’re going to really learn a lot about our team. Are we ready for this or not? Only time is going to tell,” Mattson said. “We’re going to try and get ready the best we can but we’re going to go to another level of play here.”

Northwood is 6-3 just like NMU, and they’re the only team to have beaten Michigan Tech so far this season. The ‘Wolves are very balanced offensively, having its top six scorers average between 6-12 points per game. Their system will create a challenge for NMU’s defense, and so will Northwood’s toughness.

“Toughness, that’s going to be the tough thing. They are physical, they are tough, Matt [Majkrzak] was saying their [Northwood] men’s team is very similar. They return everybody from last year, experience for them,” Mattson said. “Their understanding of how to play at this level on a daily basis is going to be our hardest challenge. They run a great system, and they’re coached extremely well. They have battled through last year and at the end of last year, I thought they were one of the best teams in our league- and I think they’re kind of showing it right now.”

With the Wildcats continuing to miss junior forward Emily Mueller due to injury, the weight of the offense will once again fall on sophomore guard Makaylee Kuhn’s shoulders. Kuhn is averaging 21.2 points per game, and her play has been one of the main reasons for the Wildcats’ success. The coaching staff has been working with her every day to continue to improve and make her teammates better, Mattson said. The team has been playing better and has been getting balanced scoring even without Mueller. Not sure if his team is ready for Northwood’s toughness and physicality, Mattson knows they’ll need to be ready to pick up a pair of wins.

“We’re going to have to be on another level and I kind of forewarned our freshmen about after the game versus Lake Superior [State]. That our mindset is going to have to go to a different place when we go down there because it’s not easy playing against them because of the physicality of the game,” Mattson said. “I don’t know if we’re quite ready for that but we’re going to have to try to be, because we have to play the games right?”

NMU will travel to Midland to battle Northwood, with tip-off of the first game on Friday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. Game two is on Saturday, Feb. 6 at 3 p.m.