HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech women's basketball team swept the regular season series against rival Northern Michigan on Sunday afternoon with a 61-54 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win in the SDC Gym. The Huskies led for most of the game and had solid play in the post to hold off the Wildcats.
"I thought today's game was a really hard fought battle and the epitome of a rivalry game," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kim Cameron said. "I thought both teams emphasized the post-game early on and when the post players for both sides got in a little foul trouble, things shifted to more of a guard oriented offense. We did a great job in certain stretches and were able to make a couple of runs which helped us stay in front at the end."
Northern Michigan (9-11, 5-7 GLIAC) struck first on Sunday with an Erin Honkala layup, but it would be the only time the Wildcats would hold an edge. Michigan Tech (16-3, 10-2 GLIAC) knotted the score at 2-2 on a jumper by senior Hannah Stoll with just under eight minutes to go in the first quarter. The bucket by Stoll sparked an 8-0 scoring run by the Huskies that culminated on senior Brenna Heise's layup with 5:50 to play in the in quarter.
Tech's defense continued to keep the Wildcats in check and as a result the Huskies increased the gap to double digits for the first time with just over three minutes remaining in the first. Stoll hauled down an offensive rebound and drew contact on the put back, making it to three free throw line where she sank both attempts to make it 16-6.
The Huskies carried a 19-10 lead into the second quarter when senior Kelli Guy found the bottom of the net on a jumper with 16 seconds left in the opening period. Junior Michelle LaFave then added two free throws at the 8:40 mark of the second, which lifted Tech's lead back to double figures at 23-12.
However, Northern Michigan didn't go quietly and made up ground over the next seven minutes to draw within two possessions. Lexi Smith converted a conventional three-point play with 1:19 left in the first half to make it a 31-27 score. LaFave helped take some of the momentum back with a layup in the final minute to send the Huskies into the locker room with a 33-27 lead at the intermission.
The third quarter was dominated by both defenses, with the teams combining for just 20 points. The Wildcats notched six of their nine third quarter points in the first two minutes to draw within two at 35-33 on a Smith layup. The Huskies were able to counter with a 7-0 run to recreate a nine-point gap at 42-33. The Huskies attacked the basket for points in the paint and at the free throw line to reignite the offense. Heise came up with a key steal and converted on conventional three-point play at a crucial juncture of the quarter.
The Huskies maintained a 44-36 advantage going into the fourth quarter and it would continue to be a single digit lead through the first two minutes. Senior Lindsay Winter dialed in a triple with 7:34 to play in the fourth, elevating the lead back to ten points at 50-40. Heise bumped the edge to 56-44 on a layup with 4:52 left, but one final 7-0 scoring charge by the Wildcats made things close in the end.
An Elizabeth Lutz conventional three-point play made the tally 56-52 with 1:22 left, but the Huskies were able to hit some key shots and free throws to hold off NMU. Winter answered Lutz with a layup of her own while Guy and sophomore Hannah Hobson converted at the charity stripe in the final minute to seal the win.
Kelliher had another solid game to power the Huskies on Sunday with a season high 15 points in the win. She also grabbed three rebounds and blocked a pair of shots. LaFave came off the bench to add 12 points, going 6 for 6 at the free throw line. Winter and Heise each had nine points and Stoll chipped in eight points. Stoll and Hobson both hauled down a team high six rebounds while Guy dished out four assists. The rebound total for Hobson was a career high.
As a team, the Huskies closed the afternoon knocking down 22 of 54 shots from the field (40.7%) and made the most of their opportunities at the charity stripe, sinking 16 of 18 attempts (88.9%). Tech scored 36 points in the paint, had a 33-30 edge in rebounding, and generated 15 points off of 14 NMU turnovers.
Smith had a game high 19 points for the Wildcats followed by 11 points from Jessica Schultz and 10 points courtesy of Erin Honkala. Honkala pulled down 14 rebounds for the double-double while blocking five shots. Northern Michigan found the target on 20 of 49 shots from the field (40.8%) and went 14 of 19 at the free throw line (73.7%).
The Huskies are back at home on Thursday night when they host Grand Valley State University for a GLIAC showdown at 5:30 p.m. in the SDC. Tech won the first meeting of the season with the Lakers 85-81 in overtime back on December 7th.