Women’s Basketball loses Tuesday game 63-49 to Michigan Tech

Travis+Nelson%2FNW

Travis Nelson/NW

Travis Nelson

After suffering a setback series against Grand Valley State, the NMU Women’s Basketball team’s youth continued to show in a 63-49 loss to rival Michigan Tech on Tuesday night.

Michigan Tech is nationally ranked and tied for first place in the GLIAC for a reason, and it’s because of their veteran players. NMU is now 7-7 after losing four of its past five games and they do not have many upperclassmen. They have one senior in guard Elizabeth Lutz and two junior forwards Elena Alaix and Emily Mueller. With Mueller out with an injury and Alaix just coming back off of an injury, life in the GLIAC has been tough on the ‘Cats. Their inexperience showed with 20 turnovers compared to Tech’s 8, and was a big part of the result, Head Coach Troy Mattson said in his Zoom press conference.

“[Turnovers were] a big part of it. I mean we were fine when we got the ball in the post and we were able to create some offense out of the post but we did not do a very good job of taking care of the basketball, throwing the ball into the post,” Mattson said. “Turnovers, if you want to look and see how you want to win and lose, turnovers are one of the first things that you always look at. And then you can look at the free-throw line too, we were just horrendous at the free-throw line [7-13]. Those two areas definitely were a major concern.”

Michigan Tech had plenty of easy layups off of NMU defensive miscues, and redshirt freshman Jordan Ludescher took advantage with a game high 21 points. Tech’s guard tandem of junior Ellie Mackay and senior Cassidy Trotter combined 2-16 from the field, but senior guard Baillie McGirk picked up the slack with 14 points on 6-11 shooting. Alaix led NMU with 15 points, and freshman guard Kayla Tierney scored 12 in her first start with four 3-pointers. Star sophomore guard Makaylee Kuhn had a rare off game for the Wildcats, going 2-18 from the field for a total of 5 points.

“You’re not going to win basketball games if you don’t defend better, if you don’t take care of the basketball and if you miss free throws. It’s that simple. And if you miss layups. This is not that hard to figure out how to win basketball games, and if there’s four areas that you got to be concerned about, it’s those,” Mattson said. “We didn’t do a good enough job to win a basketball game, I thought we played hard, we executed some things pretty good, but let’s just be straight up and honest, right now we’re not good enough to beat a good basketball team.”

The Wildcats have four games left in the regular season with a chance to improve seeding for the GLIAC Tournament. The road to the tournament starts with traveling to Davenport this weekend, and hosting Purdue Northwest to end the season on Feb. 27-28. NMU is young, but that doesn’t mean they can’t grow in these next two weeks.

“We’ve got four really important games here coming up to end the season, games that are potentially winnable if we clean a couple things up. If we are able to do a good enough job with these four games, we’re going to end up with a pretty good record. We’ve got some growing up to do, and we understand that part,” Mattson said. “We’ll keep continuing to figure it out in the next couple of weeks before we get ready for the tournament and hopefully we can play some good basketball coming down the stretch leading into the tournament so we have some confidence in ourselves.”

The pandemic has been hard on young teams that needed an offseason of development, where NMU basically started practicing on January 1, Mattson said. Talent isn’t a concern for Mattson, coaching freshman and sophomores is right now. It’s clear to see the potentially bright future for the Wildcats in glimpses, but the team has only won half of its game for a reason.

“It’s just little growing pains right now and it’s hard to take, but I’m proud of what we’ve done so far,” Mattson said. “We just need to keep putting the nose to the grindstone and keep trying to get better and let the thing fall into place where it will, I believe.”