HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech women's basketball team held off rival Northern Michigan 55-53 for a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory Saturday afternoon on the road. The Huskies led by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats closed the gap to one in the final seconds. Ultimately, the Huskies held on for their second consecutive win and fifth in the last six contests.
"I had a feeling the game could come down to a possession or two, which is expected in these rivalry games," Michigan Tech Head Coach Sam Hoyt said. "Northern Michigan is a great team and they battled back, but the good news is we were able to build an early lead and then hold on at the end. We were able to make just enough free throws and come up with some key stops down the stretch. I'm proud of our players for stepping up and fighting through the adversity to get a key win for us today."
The lone lead for Northern Michigan (14-5, 9-2 GLIAC) occurred just over a minute into the contest Saturday. Jessica Schultz converted one of two attempts at the free throw line to make it a 1-0 score. Michigan Tech (12-7, 8-3 GLIAC) then went on top 3-1 thanks to a triple by junior Abbie Botz just a few seconds later. Neither side scored again for over two minutes until Botz made good on two free throw attempts with 6:31 left in the first.
The Huskies went on to open up their largest lead of the quarter when freshman Sloane Zenner dialed in a three-point basket to bump the lead to 11-3 at the 5:06 mark. Although the Wildcats were cold from the field, they managed to keep things close in the first thanks to free throw shooting. Zenner closed the quarter scoring wise for Tech with another trey and Emily Mueller collected the Wildcats final point of the frame at the free throw line, making it a 16-9 score through 10 minutes.
Junior Hannah Hobson got things rolling in the second quarter with a couple of two point buckets and then Tech pulled out to a double digit lead for the first time at 23-11. Freshman Ellie Mackay sighted in a three-point bucket with 6:28 to play until the break and the Huskies would lead by 10 or more points for the rest of the half. Tech then engineered a 31-15 advantage, largest of the opening 20 minutes, with just over three minutes to go in the second on a trio of free throws by Mackay. The Huskies eventually settled for a 34-21 cushion once the second quarter buzzer sounded.
Defense was the name of the game in the third quarter, with the clubs combining for just 15 total points. Fortunately, eight of those points went on Tech's side of the stat sheet enabling them to increase the gap to 14 points at 42-28 with 30 minutes in the books.
Senior Isabella O'Brien and senior Elizabeth Kelliher each delivered layups at the outset of the fourth quarter, granting the Huskies their largest lead of the day at 46-28 with 8:29 to go in the fourth. However, the Wildcats would not go quietly and over the final eight minutes began to chip away at the deficit.
The Wildcats started to make things interesting when Sydney Dillinger found the target from long distance with 5:55 left in the fourth. Dillinger's trey cut Tech's lead back to single digits at 46-37 for the first time since the second quarter. The Huskies were unable to make a large counter run and Northern Michigan continued to remain within striking distance.
With 28 seconds to play in the fourth, Elizabeth Lutz delivered a triple to cut Tech's lead down to three at 52-49. The two teams traded free throws before Tess Weatherly drew the Wildcats to within one point at 54-53 with 14 seconds on the clock. Mackay posted the 55th point for the Huskies at the free throw line with two seconds remaining and then a steal by the defense on the ensuing inbounds play by Northern Michigan sealed the win for Tech.
Botz paced the Huskies with 13 points followed by Kelliher with 11 points in Saturday's victory. Mackay tossed in nine points and had a team high four rebounds while Zenner collected nine additional points off the bench. Sophomore Cassidy Trotter finished with six points and had three steals on the defensive end of the floor.
As a team, the Huskies were 16 of 40 shooting from the field (40.0%), were 8 of 17 from three-point range (47.1%), and 15 of 21 at the free throw line (71.4%). Tech came into the game averaging 17.6 points off turnovers per contest and in Saturday's win they produced 20 points off of 20 Wildcat miscues.
Lexi Smith guided Northern Michigan with 12 points followed by Lutz off the bench with 11 points. Jessica Schultz tacked on nine points and shared the team lead in rebounds with Darby Youngstrom and Dillinger at four each. Lutz ended the day with three assists and four steals.
In terms of team numbers, Northern Michigan made good 16 of 40 opportunities from the field (40.0%), connected on 4 of 12 chances from behind the three-point arc (33.3%), and converted on 17 of 24 looks at the charity stripe (70.8%). The Wildcats out-rebounded Tech 28-21, but were limited to just 14 points in the paint.
The Huskies will be back on the floor Thursday night when they travel to Purdue Northwest to begin round two of the GLIAC schedule. Tech topped the Pride 79-54 in the first meeting of the season on December 8th in Houghton. Thursday night's tip-off is slated for 6 p.m. eastern time.