Northern Michigan women’s hoops rallies past Michigan Tech to complete historic sweep
MARQUETTE – The last time the Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team beat Michigan Tech at the Berry Events Center in Marquette was Feb. 16, 2004, when Wildcat sophomore guards Alyssa Colla and Lauren Gruber were fifth graders in Wisconsin.
The last time the Wildcat women joined the NMU men in beating the Huskies in Marquette was 1997, when Gruber and Colla were only four years old and hoops was still being played at Hedgcock Fieldhouse.
So while it was only their third game ever against the rival Huskies, Gruber and Colla were pretty stoked to snap a five-game losing streak to Tech with a 69-60 victory in GLIAC play Saturday.
“It’s incredible,” Gruber said. “We have been thinking about this all week. We didn’t have a game Thursday. For the past five days, I know we’ve been focusing just on Tech.
“We just really had our minds set we wanted to win this game.”
The Northern women, who had lost 17-of-18 games against Tech heading into Saturday’s showdown, last joined the men in beating Tech on Jan. 2, 2010, but that sweep came in Houghton.
Never before had the Huskies been swept at the Berry Events Center.
To make long-awaited history, the Wildcats had to overcome a horrendous first half and 15-point deficit in the second half.
The ‘Cats trailed 30-18 heading into the break having turned the ball over just as many times as they had shot the ball – 17 – with eight field goals and a free throw falling.
“It was unbelievable,” NMU head coach Troy Mattson said. “All the things we worked on for four days we didn’t do in the first half.
“Then, in the second half, they came out and executed what we were supposed to be doing out there and dominated the offensive glass.”
Northern outscored the Huskies 51-30 in the second half. It launched an 18-4 run that began with 13:54 to play and ended with the score tied 47-47 with 7:20 to go.
NMU took the lead for good with 5:19 on the clock following a layup by Gruber.
The ‘Cats out-rebounded the Huskies 48-20 in the game, but more importantly, 32-10 in the second half and 13-4 on the offensive end.
Sophomore Abbey DeBruin led NMU with 12 rebounds, while Anna Liewen and Gruber each had eight.
“Anna Liewen and Abby DeBruin are great offensive rebounders and they really went to work down there,” Mattson said. “Lauren is a good offensive rebounder for her size.
“Everything was going perfect for us. Everything that went wrong in the first, it was a 180 in the second half.”
It also helped that Northern limited the Huskies’ leading scorer, point guard Sam Hoyt, to 11 points and 3 of 13 field goal shooting before fouling out.
Paige Albi also posted 11 points and freshman Kylie Moxie led Tech with 16.
Mattson stressed earlier in the week the key to beating Tech would be to get the ball out of Hoyt’s hands and Northern did just that.
“I was locked down on her with no help at all,” Colla said. “It helped she wasn’t touching the ball.
“We were trapping her to get the ball out of her hands right away, then switch constantly to get the ball out of her hands. She’s a good player.”
Colla finished with 22 points to lead NMU and all scorers while Gruber posted 14 points. Freshman Nea Makela posted 12 points and Liewen finished with 10.
Both Colla and Gruber were perfect from the free throw line, with Colla hitting 12 of 12 and Gruber knocking down all six of her chances.
NMU hit 27 of 34 free throws in the game, with only one attempt successfully made by Gruber in the first half.
“We shoot 100 free throws every practice, so I’m glad we made them at the end of the stretch there,” Gruber said.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mattwellens.