Tech Women send Northwood south to Midland

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HOUGHTON, Mi. The Michigan Tech women's basketball team engineered a strong second half to pull away for a 78-48 victory over Northwood University Tuesday night in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Quarterfinals at the SDC Gym. The Huskies outscored the Timberwolves 47-21 over the final 20 minutes and had four players post 10 or more points in the win. Tech will now face Ashland University in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. eastern time Saturday afternoon in Allendale, Michigan.

"Credit to Northwood for coming out strong and ready to play in the first half," Michigan Tech Head Coach Sam Hoyt said. "After halftime though, we were able to get on track by bringing a better sense of urgency and more energy to the floor in the final 20 minutes. Offensively, we moved the ball better and hit screens to get us in rhythm. I'm glad we were able to pull away in the second half tonight, but moving forward we won't have the luxury of a slow start in the first half.

"What's so great about coaching this team is that we have a bunch of different players who can step up and take over a game. It was great to see every player get in the game tonight and produce points. We are looking forward to playing a very good Ashland team in the semifinals Saturday. If we can execute efficiently and on offense have four to five players step up and score in double figures like we did tonight, we have a shot to get to the title game."

Northwood (13-16) got on the board first Tuesday night when Grace German found some space in the paint for a layup. The two points inside would prove to be rare for the Timberwolves when it was all said and done, with Michigan Tech (21-8) eventually outscoring them 42-14 inside the lane.

The Huskies countered the early basket with a mini 6-0 run to go up 6-2 with just over eight minutes left in the first quarter. Senior Elizabeth Kelliher generated Tech's first bucket on a layup followed by consecutive layup's courtesy of junior Abbie Botz and sophomore Cassidy Trotter. The basket from Trotter helped her match a season and career high of 20 points when the final buzzer sounded.

The remainder of the first quarter was tightly contested, with Northwood storming back to take an 11-8 lead with just under three minutes left. Kenzie Seeley sighted in a triple to momentarily give the Timberwolves an edge. However, freshman Ellie Mackay countered with a trey of her own to deadlock the score at 11-11 on Tech's ensuing possession. Unfortunately, the Timberwolves would slip back on top just before the opening frame ended when Ellie Taylor sank two attempts at the free throw line.

Leading 13-11 to begin the second period, the Timberwolves created what would be their largest lead of the night at 17-13 when German converted at the free throw line with 7:47 to go until intermission. Northwood continued to maintain the four-point gap at 24-20 thanks to a triple from Adrianna Stolicker that went through the bucket at the 5:31 mark.

The Huskies began to turn things around when they reeled off a 9-0 scoring run, starting with a drive to the basket and layup by Trotter. Junior Hannah Hobson pushed the Huskies back on top 25-24 with a triple and then two free throws courtesy of junior Ellie Welsh and an additional basket by Trotter in the paint made it a 29-24 score with 1:52 remaining in the half.

Hunter Viitala ended the drought for Northwood with a connection from long distance, but in the final minute freshman Sloane Zenner intercepted a pass and went coast to coast for a breakaway layup. Zenner's field goal resulted in a 31-27 Huskies' lead and some momentum on their side heading into the locker room at halftime.

The Huskies kept things rolling at the outset of the third quarter when Kelliher dropped in a bucket in the low post to make it 33-27. Kelliher's basket was the catalyst for an 8-0 scoring burst that set the tone for the rest of the game. Trotter, Kelliher, and Mackay teamed up for the next six points, which extended the gap to double digits for the first time at 39-27 with 6:36 on the third quarter clock.

The Timberwolves were able to draw within nine points a couple of times during the next two minutes, but that's as close as they would get the rest of the way. The Huskies fired in the final six points of the third quarter to lead 51-35 going into the fourth period. The gap then continued to grow from there as freshman Clara Johnson capped the game with a three-pointer, resulting in the final tally of 78-48.

Trotter powered the offense with 20 points, connecting on 9 of 14 attempts from the field while adding five rebounds, a team high four assists, two blocks, and two steals. Kelliher followed with 12 points and shared the team lead in rebounds with eight Tuesday night. Botz contributed 11 points and eight boards while Zenner rounded out the double digit scorers with 10 points.

In terms of team numbers, the Huskies found the target on 32 of 58 shots from the field (55.2%), were 8 of 15 from three-point range (53.3%), and 6 for 7 at the charity stripe (85.7%). Tech out-rebounded Northwood 34-24, generated 42 points in the paint, and 12 points off of 14 Northwood turnovers. The Huskies' bench outscored the Timberwolves' reserves 22-0.

German paced the Northwood offense with 15 points and six rebounds followed by Viitala with 12 points and five rebounds. Seeley chipped in nine points and distributed a team best four assists. As a team, the Timberwolves connected on 14 of 45 attempts from the floor (31.1%), were 7 of 19 from behind the arc (36.8%), and 13 of 14 at the free throw line (92.9%).

The Huskies will now meet Ashland at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in one of two semifinal games after the Eagles topped Parkside 77-59 in their quarterfinal contest Tuesday evening. The other semifinal showdown features the top-seed Grand Valley State against Northern Michigan beginning at 2 p.m. The Lakers defeated Wayne State 73-50 while the Wildcats pulled away for a 65-51 victory over Ferris State. Both semifinal battles and the championship game will be played in Allendale.