PAINESVILLE, Ohio. – The Northern Michigan women's basketball team picked up a big victory against Lake Erie College, 59-57, in thrilling fashion tonight (Feb. 16) to remain in the hunt for a spot in the upcoming conference tournament.
After leading the entire way of the first half, the Wildcats found themselves down 51-50 with just five minutes to go in the game. In need of the upset to stay in contention for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference tournament, senior guard Chelsea Lyons and freshman guard Alyssa Colla combined once again to bring the 'Cats back.
With the win, NMU improves to 11-12 on the season and 7-9 in the GLIAC. The 'Cats also remain in third place of the GLIAC north division. Lake Erie falls to 16-7 on the season and 10-6 in the GLIAC.
The 'Cats jumped out to an early 24-9 lead with just over 11 minutes to play in the first half when freshman guard Lauren Gruber connected on a pair of free throws. NMU connected on 41.7 percent (10-for-24) from the floor in the first 20 minutes and an impressive (12-for-12) from the charity stripe. The 'Cats took a nine-point, 36-27 lead into the break.
"We played incredible in the first half," head coach Troy Mattson said. "Lake Erie could not defend us."
Out of the break, the Lakers slowly began to chip away at the 'Cats lead, limiting NMU to just eight points through the first 10 minutes of the second stanza. Lake Erie capitalized on NMU's inability to find the bottom of the net and took its first lead with 9:39 left on the clock when Stephanie Rogers netted a pair at the charity stripe.
Trailing 51-50 with 4:23 left to go in the game, senior forward Hillary Bowling drained a three-pointer to give the 'Cats their first lead in nearly six minutes. Colla then nailed a basket from lone range just one minute later to give NMU a 56-51 lead. After a pair of made Lake Erie free throws and a split at the line for Lyons, Lake Erie's Cate Cianchetti sank a three-pointer of her own with just 1:16 left on the clock to cut the NMU lead to just 57-56.
After a Gruber foul and a split pair of free throws by the Lakers, the 'Cats found themselves with the ball with 40 seconds to go in a tied ballgame. Out of a Lake Erie timeout, Lyons drove down the lane and connected on one of her patented drives to the basket to put the 'Cats up 59-57. Lake Erie's Chrissy Delaney missed a jumper as time expired, sealing NMU's upset win.
"We had the odds against us in the second half," Mattson said. "We couldn't defend the zone and they were at the free throw line early, but we played an incredible final five minutes."
NMU was led by Bowling with 15 points and eight rebounds. Lyons and Colla also reached double-figures in the scoring column, adding 14 and 11 points respectively.
The Lakers were led by Rogers with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
NMU shot 41.0 percent (16-for-39) from the field and 35.3 percent (6-for-17) from long-range.
The 'Cats held a plus seven edge on the glass, outrebounding the Lakers 35-28.
"We're going to find out what direction we're going in against Ashland on Saturday," Mattson said. "Hopefully we can build off of the momentum we built tonight."
NMU is back in action this Saturday (Feb. 18) at No. 5 Ashland. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.