HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech women's basketball team won for the third straight time to begin the season Friday night, defeating a very good Minnesota State-Moorhead team in the home opener 59-48 in the SDC Gym. The Huskies' defense shut down the Dragons attack and never let them get into a rhythm, holding them to a 30.5 percent success rate on field goals.
"It was a really good win for us because they are a phenomenal team," Michigan Tech Head Coach Sam Hoyt said. "I think it came down to our toughness on the defensive end, which is going to be a huge key for us all year long. We executed our game plan well and limited their post touches as much as we could. We probably gave up too many offensive rebounds, but against this team we knew they were going to crash the boards pretty hard so we made a good effort to try and keep them off the glass."
Michigan Tech (3-0) took the lead in the opening 15 seconds of the game when junior Baillie McGirk found senior Elizabeth Kelliher under the basket for a 2-0 edge. The Huskies and MSU-Moorhead (2-1) then had their troubles offensively for roughly the next three minutes as neither side found the target. Kelliher cashed in another layup to make 4-0 Tech with 7:14 left in the first before the Dragons got their initial bucket on a layup by Madi Green a few seconds later.
Tech then pushed the gap to 10-2 on layups from junior Abbie Botz, McGirk, and freshman Jordan Ludescher and maintained an eight-point advantage at 16-8 going into the second quarter following a jumper from McGirk in the final minute. The Huskies limited Davis & Elkins to single digit point totals in two of the four quarters last Saturday and they picked up right where they left off Friday night against MSU-Moorhead. The Dragons were just 1 for 14 shooting from the floor in the opening period.
The Huskies created a double digit lead for the first time during the beginning minutes of the second quarter. Following an offensive rebound, junior Hannah Hobson found freshman Ellie Mackay opened behind the arc for a triple to make it a 19-8 score. Although the Huskies would never trail in Friday's game, MSU-Moorhead would always remain in striking distance.
The Dragons slowly chipped away at Tech's lead in the second quarter to draw within three points at 23-20 on a Jacky Volkert layup with 3:40 to go until the break. The two teams then traded points on successful free throws by Kelliher and Nicole Brown with just over two minutes remaining on the clock. The Huskies recorded the final point of the half on a Kelliher free throw and thus carried a 26-22 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Huskies maintained just a two score gap until the 5:53 mark of the third quarter when junior Ellie Welsh dialed in a triple to put Tech up again by seven points at 35-28. Michigan Tech had a strong close to the third quarter, which enabled them to establish the largest lead of the night. Mackay found the mark from three-point land with 2:55 to play in the third and followed it up with a successful free throw attempt for a 42-30 Huskies advantage with 2:34 remaining in the third.
The Dragons sliced their deficit down to nine points at 44-35 on a triple from Kiley Borowicz to end the third period, but the Huskies bumped it back to a 48-36 cushion on two Botz free throws with 7:59 left in the fourth. The Dragons then engineered a 9-0 scoring burst in a bid to overtake Tech late. Volkert made it a 48-45 score on a layup with just over four minutes still remaining on the fourth quarter clock.
However, the Huskies defense came up with some big stops and had help from the offense on some key free throws and buckets mixed in to halt the Dragons momentum. Hobson answered Volkert's layup with two free throws followed by two stops on defense via a turnover and rebound off a missed MSU-Moorhead shot.
Leading 50-45 with less than three minutes to go, Hobson connected from downtown to create an eight-point cushion at 53-45. Trotter and Botz then iced the game away at the free throw line down the stretch, giving the Huskies the 59-48 win.
The Huskies had three players with double digit point totals, led by Kelliher with 13 points and five rebounds. Trotter followed with 11 points and four rebounds while Mackay generated a season high 10 points. Botz was 5 of 6 at the free throw line and chipped in nine points with McGirk and Welsh dealing out three assists apiece. McGirk had a team high six rebounds and added six points.
The Huskies were successful on 19 of 55 shots from the field (34.5%), were 5 of 20 from three-point range (25.0%), and 16 of 22 at the free throw line (72.7%). Tech's defense forced 23 MSU-Moorhead turnovers which produced 15 points on the offensive end of the floor. Points in the paint were even for both sides at 24-24.
Megan Hintz and Volkert paced the Dragons with 10 points Friday night followed by Brooklyn Liegal with eight points. Hintz had a game high eight rebounds and Volkert distributed four assists. As a team, the Dragons were 18 of 59 from the field (30.5%), 3 of 26 from behind the arc (11.5%), and 9 of 10 at the free throw line (90%). They had the advantage in rebounding 48-32.
The Huskies will be back on the court Sunday afternoon when they host Minnesota State in a non-conference game at the SDC Gym. The tip-off is set for 1 p.m.