Going into Saturday (Jan. 5) afternoon's Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game at Kates Gymnasium, Northern Michigan's women's basketball team had the league's No. 1-rated defense.
Ashland University's women's basketball team has a pretty good defense, as well, and the No. 8-ranked Eagles earned a tough 71-55 home win over the Wildcats. Ashland improves to 13-1 overall and 5-1 in the GLIAC, while the North Division-leading 'Cats are 10-4, 5-1.
NMU came into Saturday allowing just 51.0 points per game, best in the conference, but it was the Eagles' "D" which rose to the occasion, allowing just 55 points, 39.3 percent from the floor and 30.0 percent from the 3-point line to the Wildcats.
"Northern's a really good team, and our girls came out…our girls, especially in the second half, did a good job of keeping it out the paint," said Ashland assistant coach Stephanie Gehlhausen. "Really proud of everyone's effort."
Ashland extends its program-record home winning streak to 47 games, and the Eagles also have won 43 GLIAC regular-season contests in a row at "The Kates."
THE TOP TEN
1. Leading the Eagle effort on both ends of the floor was junior forward Sara Loomis, who posted game-highs in both points (22) and blocks (four), while also grabbing seven rebounds.
"We knew what our game plan was," Loomis said of Ashland's defensive showing. "Their whole starting lineup was 6-foot or above. We tried to front them a little more."
2. Right on Loomis' scoring heels was sophomore forward Karlee Pireu. In her third collegiate start, Pireu scored 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Thirteen of Pireu's points came in the final 10 minutes.
"It definitely is a little different," Pireu said of starting. "When I'm on the bench, a lot of times I can see what's going on on the floor, then come in and already know the adjustments."
3. Junior guard Renee Stimpert scored 12 of her 16 points in the first quarter, and was 6-of-8 from the floor.
"Renee's game is so widespread," Gehlhausen said. "Teams forget that she has the ability to score, just as everyone else on the team."
4. As a team, the Eagles shot 48.0 percent from the field, and connected on 17-of-21 from the free-throw line.
5. Ashland jumped out to a 10-3 lead, but Northern Michigan countered with a 9-0 run for an early two-point advantage. The tight first quarter ended with a 16-all tie.
6. The next run in the contest belonged to the Eagles, as an early-second-quarter 18-18 tie turned into a 30-20 halftime lead. Ashland made six of 10 field goals in the second stanza, but NMU missed 11 of 13 from the floor.
7. Leading 40-37 late in the third quarter, the Eagles ran off the period's final six points to take a nine-point advantage into the fourth. Ashland kept the Wildcats at arm's length throughout the fourth quarter, and with a 57-48 lead inside of the six-minute mark in the game, AU ended the contest outscoring NMU, 14-7.
8. Ashland finished the afternoon with just eight turnovers. The Eagles came into the contest with the fewest turnovers per game (13.5) in the conference.
9. This was Ashland's 11th consecutive win over Northern Michigan, and the Eagles now take the lead in the all-time series, 17-16.
10. The Wildcats were led by Lexi Smith, who scored 19 points, and Darby Youngstrom, who added 10.
Ashland will return to GLIAC road play on Thursday (Jan. 10) at 6:30 p.m. at Parkside (4-8, 2-4).