Women’s basketball falls to Northwood in 78-75 shootout


ONE SHOT SHORT—NMU forward Vivianne Jende drives to the rim for a lay-up in the first quarter of the Wildcats’ 78-75 loss to Northwood on Saturday. Jende was on fire early with 10 first quarter points, and finished second in scoring for the ‘Cats with 14. Travis Nelson/NW

Travis Nelson, Sports Editor

The Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team went toe-to-toe for 40 minutes with the GLIAC’s hottest team in Northwood but came up a possession short in a 78-75 defeat on Saturday afternoon.

Northwood (13-6, 7-5 GLIAC) has now won seven games in a row after a rocky 0-5 start in conference play, and they’re especially hard to beat shooting 54.2% from the 3-point line with 13 of them and 45.2% overall from the field. Despite this, NMU (8-8, 3-6 GLIAC) had a chance to tie the game on the final possession, but Emily Mueller’s 3-pointer came up short in the final seconds.

NMU is not a team that usually scores 75 points, or gives up 78 for that matter, but Northern has now shown the ability to hang in any type of game. The Wildcats trailed 76-71 with under two minutes left, but Mueller willed the team back in it with two straight baskets to make it 76-75 with 40 seconds to go. Free throws from Keyser put Northwood up by three with 26.1 left, and NMU had the open look from Mueller fall short and no good.

“If you weren’t coaching the game, it must’ve been an entertaining game to watch,” NMU coach Troy Mattson said. “There were a lot of exciting plays, (and) I have to give Northwood all the credit in the world. Not a lot of teams are going to come up here and beat Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan, and they were able to do that this weekend. They made 15 3’s against Tech, they made 13 against us shooting at a percentage that’s over 60% from the 3-point line and they were just hitting the bottom of the net.”

Seven different Timberwolves made a 3-pointer, and four of them scored in double figures. Alli Kelser led all scorers with 21 points going 8-11 from the field and 3-4 from deep. Ellie Taylor and Maizie Taylor both had 12 points, and Makenzie Todd finished with 10.

Mueller led NMU with 18 points, while Vivianne Jende finished with 14 and Elizabeth Lutz had 11. Makaylee Kuhn was held to only six points in the game and was scoreless at halftime. The Wildcats are now 1-2 in the past three games, all at home. However, playing against Grand Valley State and Northwood is an easy way to tarnish a record.

“It’s a bitter defeat, I thought we played really well the last three nights out,” Mattson said. “We just happened to be playing against two really good teams against Grand Valley and Northwood, and now we have Michigan Tech coming in, we got three really good teams coming in here. It’s been tough, but my girls, we’re going to fight and we’ll figure it out.”

The high-scoring affair began in the first quarter, with NMU holding a 21-18 lead after one period. Jende was on fire for the ‘Cats in that opening quarter, scoring 10 of her 14 points. Neither team could separate in the second quarter either, as it appeared every time Northern would take the lead, Northwood was there with a 3-pointer for an answer. The Timberwolves rallied to take a 41-37 halftime lead, and that can be credited to four 3’s alone in the quarter. Maizie Taylor’s 12 points all came in the first half with four of Northwood’s seven 3-point shots.

Northwood finally appeared to gain some separation by boosting their lead up to 58-50 with two minutes left in the third quarter. NMU took every Timberwolves’ punch and stayed in the game despite Northwood’s offense not slowing down. Trailing 61-54 in the final seconds of the third, Ana Rhude got a shot to go down and cut the deficit down to five.

Northern had a strong start to the fourth quarter with a Kuhn jumper and a 3-pointer from Taya Stevenson to tie it up at 61. On the ensuing possession, Stevenson was fouled in the corner on a 3-point try, and her free throws gave the Wildcats a 64-61 advantage with eight minutes to play. Northwood jumped back out in front and took a one-point lead before Ellie Taylor nailed a 3 to make it 73-69 with four minutes to go. Mueller scored down low to cut it down to two, but Alana Nelson sunk another 3-pointer. 

Mueller had clutch baskets down the stretch, but it just wasn’t enough to combat Northwood’s offensive success.

“That’s a team that got into the national tournament last year, and they’re showing it right now,” Mattson said. “They’re really playing well, and they’re really gutting it out because they were off to a really slow start this year with a new coach and a new system. But they’ve figured it out as of recently, and they’re not going to be an easy out for anybody.”

NMU hosts Michigan Tech in an important rivalry match-up tonight at 5:30 p.m.