HOUGHTON - The post duo of Kylie Moxley and Emily Harrison proved too much for the Northern Michigan University women's basketball team to handle Saturday.
But despite their 71-58 loss at Michigan Tech, the Wildcats qualified for the GLIAC Tournament as the No. 8 seed to book a date in Ashland (Ohio) on Wednesday.
A true freshman, Moxley poured in 20 points and Harrison, a sophomore, chipped in nine off the bench to help the Huskies pull away from the Wildcats in a decisive 11-point second half.
Michigan Tech University’s Kelcey Traynoff (34) tries to stay with Northern Michigan University’s Alyssa Colla (3) as the latter dribbles toward the basket in GLIAC action Saturday in Houghton. Tech took a 71-58 triumph, but NMU still qualified for the league tournament. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by David Archambeau)
Tech opened the game after intermission with a 17-4 run, with Moxley taking on fellow freshman Nea Makela of NMU successfully four times in the post. The Huskies cruised from there to clinch a share of the GLIAC North title.
"It was a topic of concern at halftime that our post play wasn't defending well enough," Northern coach Troy Mattson said.
"We didn't look like we had much energy in the post and we weren't supporting people quick enough.
"Even though we put points up in the first half, it was kind of disguising what we were doing on the defensive end.
"We weren't competing in and around the basket and because of it, Michigan Tech had a couple of players in the post do some damage," he added. "They took advantage of it."
Moxley, in particular, had her way with Makela and Courtney Lemon after the Tech freshman suffered a rough game in Marquette earlier in the season.
In the February loss to Northern, Makela exposed Moxley's reluctance to turn to her left, forcing the freshman into several awkward misses over her right shoulder.
Moxley has spent nearly every practice since staying behind with coaches Kim Cameron and Maria Kasza to practice her off-hand shooting.
Saturday, Moxley went left five times, drawing two fouls and converting on all three field goal attempts.
"I have been working on it so much lately, because I know team have been watching me and know I go right," Moxley said.
"They were giving me left this time, so I was just going that way. It was about revenge. We wanted it so bad."
As Tech continued to pour points in from the post, the Wildcats shot themselves in the foot with 19 turnovers, including four from Makela down low.
The Huskies came away with 11 steals as Tech guards would swarm the ball with active hands after each post entry.
"We noticed at halftime that their posts really like to take their time and try and back down our defenders," Tech guard Sam Hoyt said.
"So (Cameron) gave us the green light to try and get some steals, which is something we normally don't have. It was fun."
Northern will play GLIAC champion Ashland Wednesday in the tournament quarterfinal. Ashland beat the Wildcats in Marquette, 63-46, in January.