Northern Michigan women’s hoops handles Lake Superior State, moves closer to GLIAC tournament berth

MARQUETTE – Not only did the Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team take care of its own business on Thursday night, it got a little help from its friends in the fight for a spot in the GLIAC tournament.

The Wildcats snapped a four-game losing streak by beating Upper Peninsula rival Lake Superior State 64-53 at the Berry Events Center to remain on track for a postseason berth.

The ‘Cats (12-12 overall, 9-11 in the GLIAC) jumped from a tie for ninth with Tiffin (11-13, 8-12) into a tie for eighth with Northwood (11-15, 9-11) following losses by both the Timberwolves – 70-57 at Michigan Tech – and Dragons – 50-43 at Lake Erie.

No. 7 Saginaw Valley State (12-12, 10-10) remains one game up on NMU and now Northwood following a 71-61 home win over Grand Valley State.

The Wildcats and Timberwolves meet at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the BEC in the final home game of the year for NMU. Northwood defeated Northern 65-52 on Jan. 26 in downstate Midland.

“We have to win,” NMU sophomore Brooke Coenen said. “We have to win the rest of the games to get into the tournament. It’s close with everyone.

“This (win over LSSU) is going to help us for Saturday. We’re going to have a lot of confidence going in. That’s just going to boost our energy.”

The Wildcats finished off a season sweep of the Lakers (4-16, 5-19), who sit last in the GLIAC North, despite their two leading scorers having less than stellar nights.

Sophomore guard Alyssa Colla is averaging 13.2 points per game this season and fellow sophomore guard Lauren Gruber 12 per outing. Both were held to nine points on Thursday.

“Alyssa did not have a great game,” NMU head coach Troy Mattson said. “Lauren made some 3s, but she didn’t get any other baskets other than the three 3s she made.

“So our two leading scorers didn’t have their great nights on the offensive end, but some people made some plays.”

The Wildcats picked up 25 points from their bench. Coenen totaled a team-high 13 points.

Sophomore Courtney Lemon finished with a team-high six rebounds, plus six points off a pair of 3-pointers after taking over for freshman Nea Makela in the second half.

After leading NMU with seven points in the first half, Makela was held scoreless in the second.

“No one in there was going to stop our post, so when that happens, we have to keep getting it to them all game long,” Colla said.

“Brooke did really well. Nea did really well in the beginning and then Courtney came in and hit some big shots. Our posts had a really big game.”

Defense allowed NMU to take a 29-18 halftime lead over LSSU. But just like their first meeting in Sault Ste. Marie the Wildcats won, 58-52, the Lakers went on a run to cut the margin to five with 8:11 to play and to five again with 4:27 left on the BEC clock.

Two free throws from Colla, a layup by Coenen, a trey by Gruber, two more successful free throws by Coenen and steals by Lemon and sophomore guard Sarah Miller pushed the Wildcats’ lead to its peak at 14 points with 2:22 remaining.

Coenen hit two more free throws with 1:42 to play to keep NMU back up by 14 on a night where the Wildcats struggled from the charity stripe.

Coenen and Colla each finished 7 of 8, while the rest of the team shot 7-of-14 from the stripe.

“I thought we played extremely good defense in the first half and dominated the defensive glass,” Mattson said. “If we would have shot free throws better, that game might have been over a lot earlier than it was.

“We struggled on the free throw line and that really affected the ball game.”

Notes: The Wildcats out-rebounded the Lakers 36-30, including 29-20 on the defensive boards. … Colla had a team-high six assists for NMU. … Northern finished with 18 turnovers compared to LSSU’s 15. … The Lakers were led in scoring by senior Maria Blazejewski, who had 20 points. … Former Westwood standout Megan Manninen finished 0 for 3 from the field for no points with one rebound, one assist and one turnover in 16 minutes of action.

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