SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (WLUC) – The Northern Michigan University Women's Basketball team upset Ashland University 64-57 to advance to the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Semifinals.
The 57 points are the fewest the Eagles have scored this season and the fewest by AU since scoring 52 points in the NCAA Division II Championship last season. It is the second top 10 team the Wildcats have beet in a week after beating Grand Valley State University, who was ranked #7 at the time, last Saturday in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Semifinals.
The Wildcats featured three players in double figures, as senior Darby Youngstrom (Cook, Minn.) and sophomore Lexi Smith (St. Germain, Wis.) both finished with 14 points and two assists. Smith also added four rebounds while Youngstrom had three rebounds and two steals.
Sophomore Elizabeth Lutz (Marshall, Wis.) chipped in with 10 points with sophomore Amber Huebner (Marquette, Mich.) getting nine points. Senior Taylor Hodell (Wausau, Wis.) gave NMU eight points along with eight rebounds and two blocked shots.
The defense kept Ashland to just 37% shooting, 12% lower than their season average while the 57 points are 30 points fewer than AU averaged, as they entered tonight averaging 87.2 points per game this season.
Ashland opened the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Quarterfinals matchup with four points before Youngstrom got the Wildcats on the board. Huebner then added a layup to tie the game at 4-4 with 7:39 to go in the first quarter.
The Eagles managed to go up 10-4 before Lutz hit a three with two minutes left in the quarter to narrow the gap. With a minute left, the Eagles added a jumper which senior Sydney Dillinger (Houghton, Mich.) answered with a layup. However, the Eagles knocked in a three with three seconds left to end the quarter with a 15-9 lead.
NMU outscored Ashland 15-4 in the second quarter to take a lead into halftime. Hodell got the quarter started with a layup a little over two minutes into the frame. Youngstrom then capitalized on a three-point play to make it 15-14 with 5:50 left in the half. Ashland managed two free throws which Hodell answered with two of her own before Huebner gave the Wildcats a lead, 18-17, with 4:31 left in the half.
Smith extended the lead a minute later with two from the charity stripe followed by another Dillinger layup to give the Wildcats a 22-17 lead with 2:49 on the clock. AU sank two free throws but Youngstrom answered with a jumper to give NMU a 24-19 lead at the half.
A NEW HALF GETS GOING
Huebner started the second half with a three but the Eagles replied with a three of their own. Smith and AU then exchanged layups but a free throw by Ashland narrowed it to 29-25 two minutes into the third quarter.
Huebner and Hodell then made layups around another Eagle three to make it 33-29 with six minutes on the clock. The Eagles responded to narrow it to 33-32 but Youngstrom then made two layups and a free throw and Lutz added two free throws to put NMU up 40-32 with two minutes left in the quarter.
After an Ashland three, Hodell made a layup to end the quarter and gave NMU a 42-35 lead heading into the final quarter
GETTING THE WIN
Ashland opened the fourth quarter with a jumper which Smith answered then Schultz and Lutz both made threes to put NMU up 50-37 with 5:30 to play. The Eagles responded with a three but Smith followed with a free throw to make the score 52-40 with 3:20 left to play.
Smith added another jumper between two Ashland scores but two Eagle threes made the score 54-50 with 1:04 left to play. Smith sank four more free throws with Lutz, Youngstrom and Dillinger each making two which prevented a late run by Ashland, giving the Wildcats a 64-57 victory.
NMU improves to 23-9 on the season, with the 23 wins being the most wins in a season of the Troy Mattson era, and the most wins since the 2000-01 team won 24 games. Ashland fell to 29-3 on the season. The Wildcats will now take on the Midwest Regional #1 seed, Drury University, in the Midwest Regional Semifinals. Drury is 32-0 on the season and entered the postseason ranked #1 in the NCAA. It will be the first meeting against the Panthers since the teams squared off in the 2010 Midwest Regional Semifinals.