Marquette’s Grazulis, Grand Valley State shut down Northern Michigan inside for road GLIAC victory

MARQUETTE – The first time the Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team squared off with Grand Valley State, the Wildcats were without two key players in the paint – freshman Nea Makela and sophomore Abbey DeBruin.

Both were back in the Northern lineup for Round 2 on Thursday at the Berry Events Center, but their presence went largely unnoticed.

“Last game we played really good post defense so this time it was the same mentality,” said GVSU sophomore center Daina Grazulis of Marquette. “We just wanted to shut them down. I think we did a good job.

“It was pretty much the same. I didn’t see any difference.”

The Wildcats didn’t get the production necessary under the rim to salvage a season split with the Lakers, falling 67-56 in GLIAC play following a 58-48 loss on Jan. 10 in downstate Allendale.

Despite being on the floor for 21 minutes, Makela was held scoreless and only mustered five rebounds.

Meanwhile, DeBruin mustered up 10 total points in her 29 minutes, but only four rebounds.

Three of DeBruin’s 10 points came from beyond the arc, however, as NMU was outscored 24-18 in the paint.

“We got zero points out of our centers,” NMU head coach Troy Mattson said. “We had three centers and we trust all three of them. We had zero points out of them and we had to stop throwing the ball in there because they weren’t getting anything.”

For Mattson, the key to NMU’s defeat came in the opening minutes before GVSU made a 19-4 run that turned a 12-10 deficit into a 29-16 lead at halftime over Northern.

The Wildcats missed four layups in the first three minutes and seven of their first eight layups as the Lakers collapsed on players in the paint, specifically Makela.

Northern’s inside presence improved in the second half, as it outscored GVSU 14-12 underneath the rim.

The 12-4 rout in the paint in the first half, however, put NMU in a hole it couldn’t escape from.

“I thought we really lost some opportunities early in the game,” Mattson said. “We executed and got the ball to right around the rim for the first five or six plays of the game and we came out of there with two points. We could have been up 12-6 or 12-4. It kind of set the tone for everything that was going on.

“When you get the ball around the basket, you have to finish, no matter what time of the game it is.”

Grazulis at 6-foot-3 was one of the Lakers giving NMU fits inside defensively, as well as 6-2 GVSU starting senior center Alex Stelfox.

Offensively, Stelfox finished with nine points while Grazulis had eight points to go with her two rebounds, a block and a steal.

Senior forward Briauna Taylor led GVSU with 15 points while sophomore forward Kat LaPrairie had 13 points off the bench for the Lakers.

For Grazulis, her second homecoming to Marquette as a Laker was much more fun. The former Redette standout only saw the floor for five minutes last year in her first trip back to Marquette.

“It’s also weird because there’s a lot of people I know here,” Grazulis said. “Also playing against Northern, I watched them my whole life. It’s mixed emotions.”

The Wildcats had four players finish in double figures, led by sophomore Alyssa Colla’s game-high 22 points. Sophomore guard Lauren Gruber joined DeBruin with 10 points while freshman guard Anna Liewen had 11 points.

Northern returns to the Berry on Saturday to host Ferris State at 1 p.m. as part of the Pink Wave.

The Bulldogs edged NMU 47-46 in Big Rapids on Jan. 12 in the first meeting, which also did not include Makela or DeBruin.

“We’ll bounce back,” Mattson said. “These girls have done nothing but play hard and give Northern Michigan their best effort every single night out. We’re going to bounce back. We’re not done yet.”

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at