MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Michigan Tech women's basketball team kept the 2019-20 campaign alive with a 51-48 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win Thursday night at rival Northern Michigan. The Huskies outscored the Wildcats 20-6 in the second quarter and held on at the end to advance to the GLIAC Tournament starting Tuesday.
"Every time we play here it comes down to the wire," Michigan Tech Head Coach Sam Hoyt said. "We gave up too many open three-point shots in the first quarter, but once we were able to take those away, our defense sparked our offense. I thought Sara Dax and Cassidy Trotter made some big plays for us in the first half and throughout the night it took a full team effort for us to get this win. We needed everyone to make shots and defensive stops at various points in the game and credit to our players for coming through in key situations. I am very proud of the heart our players showed throughout the game. We needed this win to get into the tournament and once you make the postseason anything can happen."
Things did not look good early for Michigan Tech (11-16, 9-11 GLIAC) when Northern Michigan (13-15, 10-10 GLIAC) jumped out to a 6-0 lead on three-point baskets by Amber Huebner and Makaylee Kuhn. The Huskies were finally able to get on the board with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter on a short jumper by freshman Sara Dax to make it 6-2. The Wildcats then doubled their point total to 12 with two more triples from Kuhn to make it 12-2 with 3:48 left in the first period.
Tech spent a timeout and then over the next few minutes began to settle in a bit more. Dax added another point at the free throw line followed by a jumper in the paint by senior Michelle LaFave. Sophomore Ellie Mackay brought the Huskies to within five points at 12-7 on jumper just inside the arc with 2:27 showing on the first quarter clock. Erin Honkala recorded the final basket of the period for Northern Michigan, resulting in a 14-7 deficit for Tech with 10 minutes in the books.
The tide of Thursday night's game began to change in the second quarter. Kuhn advanced to the rim for a layup in the opening minute, but the Huskies would hold the Wildcats to just four points for the remainder of the quarter. Senior Abbie Botz for Tech and Jessica Schultz for Northern Michigan then exchanged free throws before an 8-0 Tech scoring run made it 18-17 NMU with 6:12 left in the first half. Botz, senior Ellie Welsh, and junior Cassidy Trotter cashed in layups followed by two Trotter free throws to account for the scoring.
Still trailing 20-17 with 5:41 left in the second frame, the Huskies proceeded to engineer a 10-0 scoring burst to grab a 27-20 advantage at halftime. Mackay gave the Huskies their first lead of the evening at 21-20 on a jumper at the 2:56 mark and Trotter would pick up the final six points in the last two minutes.
Botz constructed Tech's biggest lead of the contest at the outset of the second half when she made it a nine-point game at 29-20 on two free throws with 7:44 to play in the third. However, Northern Michigan kept the Huskies from extending the gap further and when the third quarter was over, Tech's lead stood at 36-31.
Schultz notched the first two points of the fourth period for the Wildcats and suddenly the lead for Tech was down to 36-33. Mackay and Welsh answered with key field goals for the Huskies to bump the score out to three possessions again 40-33. Throughout the fourth quarter the Wildcats would close in, but each time the Huskies responded with a key field goal or free throws to remain in front.
Northern Michigan closed the gap to one point twice in the last three minutes, but Trotter and Dax came through with a jumper and free throws respectively. The Wildcats eventually had a chance to tie it in the closing seconds, but a triple from Kuhn went off target and Botz was there to secure the defensive rebound for the Huskies and run out the clock to preserve the 51-48 victory.
Mackay and Trotter each guided the Huskies with 14 points followed by Botz with eight points, five rebounds, and three steals. LaFave chipped in four points, four rebounds, and had a team best two assists. Tech made 17 of 47 shots from the field (36.2%), were 1 for 8 from behind the arc (12.5%), and 16 of 18 at the free throw line (88.9%). The Huskies produced 14 points off of 13 Northern Michigan miscues while delivering 24 points in the paint.
Kuhn led the Wildcats with 19 points followed by Schultz with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Honkola chipped in eight points and hauled down a game high 13 rebounds. Northern Michigan couldn't get much going on offense, making just 15 of 53 shots from the field (28.3%). The Wildcats were successful on 6 of 19 looks from long distance (31.6%) and were 12 for 16 at the charity stripe. Northern Michigan out-rebounded Tech 44-26 with 14 coming on the offensive end of the floor. However, the Wildcats were only able to generate six second chance points.
The Huskies advance to the GLIAC Tournament to play Grand Valley State on the road Tuesday night in the quarterfinal round. Tech is the No. 7 seed in this year's tournament while the Lakers hold the No. 2 seed. The tip-off is slated for 6 p.m. eastern time.