HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech women's basketball team fell to Saginaw Valley State University Thursday night 60-59 in the Great Lakes Athletic Conference opener at the SDC Gym. The Huskies rallied from a nine-point second half deficit to tie the game in the closing seconds, but a Cardinals free throw with less than a second to play proved to be the difference.
"It was a heartbreaking loss at home that came down to the wire tonight," Michigan Tech Head Coach Sam Hoyt said. "I'm really proud of the way our players fought back in the fourth quarter. A couple of our senior players, Abbie Botz and Michelle LaFave, stepped up big for us with some key shots late in the game. We are going to learn and grow every single game and it's really important that we are sticking together as we move forward into Saturday's game against Northwood.
"Northwood is going to be a team that looks to score in transition and they have some guards who can shoot the ball really well. They are skilled players and we will have to do the little things well, which is true for every single game that we play."
Saginaw Valley State (5-4, 1-0 GLIAC) struck first Thursday night on a layup from Aaliah Hill in the opening minute of the contest. Michigan Tech (2-6, 0-1 GLIAC) countered with the next six points on a couple of triples by senior Hannah Hobson and sophomore Ellie Mackay to make it a 6-2 score with 8:41 remaining in the first quarter.
The Cardinals slipped back in front 8-6 on a layup from Ashley Buchholz at the 6:57 mark, but the Huskies fought back with a 7-0 scoring run to take a 13-8 advantage. Senior Abbie Botz got the run going on a jumper followed by a two-point bucket from Hobson with 5:56 to play in the first. About 30 seconds later, Mackay hoisted in another triple to cap the quick Tech run.
The Huskies held the edge until Kaitlyn Zarycki pushed Saginaw Valley State back on top 17-16 courtesy of a layup with 2:47 remaining in the first period. The Cardinals went on to close out the first frame with a 21-16 lead, which they maintained until the 6:04 juncture of the second quarter when Michelle LaFave tied the score at 23-23. Unfortunately, Saginaw Valley State advanced into the lead again in the final minutes of the first half and took a 32-29 lead into the intermission.
The Huskies drew even again at 36-36 on a LaFave layup with 5:55 to go in the third quarter, but were unable to get the edge back into their favor. Saginaw Valley State created what turned out to be the biggest gap of night at 51-42 when Zarycki tossed in a mid-range jumper with 42 seconds to play in the third.
The Huskies stayed within striking distance throughout the fourth quarter and chipped away at the deficit to give themselves a chance to make a comeback. Trailing 59-57 with under 30 seconds to go in the fourth, Tech was able to work the ball inside to LaFave who maneuvered into position for the game tying shot with six seconds left. The Cardinals called timeout to advance the ball to the front court and Maddie Maloney drew a foul right before the horn sounded. She connected on one of two free throws to seal the 60-59 win for the Cardinals.
Mackay powered the Huskies with 18 points, connecting on 7 of 14 shots from the field, which included four makes from behind the three-point arc. She also added three assists and a pair of steals to the stat sheet. Hobson and LaFave each followed with 10 points while junior Cassidy Trotter added nine points, six assists, and four steals. Botz chipped in eight points and had a game high 13 rebounds.
The Huskies were successful on 21 of 58 shots from the field (36.2%), were 5 of 22 from three-point range (22.7%), and 12 of 14 at the free throw line (85.7%). Tech's defense forced 20 turnovers which led to 21 points on the offensive end of the floor. The Huskies generated 26 of their points in the paint Thursday night.
Zarycki paced the Cardinals off the bench with 15 points and shared the team lead in rebounds with five. Maloney tossed in 11 points and dished out five assists in the contest. Saginaw Valley State connected on 22 of 51 attempts from the field (43.1%), fired in 8 of 22 triple tries (36.4%), and converted 8 of 16 opportunities at the free throw line (50.0%). The Cardinals out-rebounded Tech 42-27.
The Huskies will look to regroup on Saturday when they host Northwood on Econo Foods Kids Day at the SDC Gym. The Timberwolves fell at Northern Michigan Thursday night 55-46. Saturday's tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. eastern time.