HAMMOND, Ind. – Stable first half defense and efficient shooting keyed Michigan Tech women's basketball's 67-44 road victory over Purdue Northwest Friday night at PNW Fitness Center in the opening game of the 2020-21 regular season. The Huskies held the Pride to just a single basket in the first quarter and found layup lanes early and often to build a 19-3 lead, a catalyst for the decisive road win.
"This was a great game for us to get back in the swing of things," commented Michigan Tech Head Coach Sam Hoyt. "I thought our execution was pretty good overall and we were able to get the ball inside the paint right away, which opened up more opportunities outside the rest of the game."
Junior Ellie Mackay led all players with 17 points and four assists. Sophomores Alex Rondorf (13 points) and Sloane Zenner (12 points) also made it to double figures for the Tech offense. In addition, Rondorf picked off three of MTU's 13 total steals.
Leading by 20 points or more most of the evening, the Huskies shot 47-percent (21 of 45) and connected on nine jumpers from beyond the arc, including three each from Mackay and Rondorf.
Redshirt freshman Jordan Ludescher made her long-anticipated return to the starting lineup and impressed immediately with a quick drive to the rim. The Glen Flora, Wisconsin native led the team with seven rebounds and added six points and two steals in 23 minutes on the floor. Ludescher has been largely absent from the court because of injuries suffered over the past two seasons but persevered long enough to contribute again.
"I am extremely happy for Jordan," Hoyt said. "For her to be our leading rebounder after what she's been through was amazing. She's such a gritty and mentally tough player and also a great teammate.
After limiting Purdue Northwest to 1 of 12 shooting to start the contest, the Huskies began to find their range at the end of the first quarter. In the second, the Pride recoiled and caused 12 MTU first-half turnovers. The teams entered halftime separated by 16 points (34-18).
PNW's brief recovery was stifled at the midpoint of the third quarter by Rondorf, who rattled in back-to-back 3-pointers in transition for MTU for a 44-25 score line. By then, starters Baillie McGirk and Cassidy Trotter clung to four personal fouls apiece. Sara Dax came off the bench to play 25 minutes and had five points and five rebounds. Freshman Tessa Leece (Ishpeming, Michigan) recorded her first points as a Husky and finished with five points along with one rebound.
Purdue Northwest shot 15-for-55 (27-percent) on the night and 2-for-15 (13-percent) from long range. Dash Shaw led the Pride with 10 points and three steals. Savaya Brockington also posted 10 points and narrowly missed a double-double with a team leading nine boards.
Michigan Tech edged out PNW 37-36 in rebounds, though the Pride was better on the offensive glass. Both teams made frequent trips to the free throw line but the Huskies were far more efficient, draining 16 of 22 compared to 12 of 21 for PNW. Michigan Tech never trailed and led by as many as 27 points with just under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
Tech did struggle at times to take care of the basketball and committed 24 turnovers. Conversely, Purdue Northwest produced 20 turnovers.
"I think the biggest key for us tomorrow will be to cut our turnover numbers in half," Hoyt said. "We played strong defense but then we often gave the possession right back."
While the turnover numbers may not have been perfect, the Huskies performed well in most other categories. Mackay and McGirk added to a team total 13 assists and eight players took in at least one steal.
The Huskies (1-0) return to action Saturday at 4 p.m. and will play Purdue Northwest (0-1) for a second straight time at 4 p.m. Fans can listen to the game live on Mix 93.5 WKMJ or watch via livestream. The Huskies home opener is scheduled for Friday, January 15.