by Turner Blaufuss
In the second home game in many nights, the Dragons women’s basketball team dropped a tight defensive battle to the Northern Michigan Wildcats, 49-45.
It was also the second home loss in as many nights for MSUM in a rocky start to the season.
“Our intensity on defense was good,” said MSUM coach Karla Nelson. “It certainly wasn’t a high-scoring affair. Fatigue played a role tonight.” The first half saw the Dragons play with great energy from the starters and their bench as well. With an eight-point lead nearing halftime, the Wildcats scored three quick baskets to cut the lead down to two, 29-27.
The Dragons struggled to get anything going offensively in the second half as the Wildcats took the lead and at one point made it an eight-point differential.
The Wildcats were led by Alyssa Colla, who finished the game with 23 points and 10 of them came in Northern Michigan’s run early on in the second half.
“[Colla] is just an exceptional guard,” said Nelson. “She can hit the three and does a good job of getting to the rim in control and a good pull up too. She’s an all-around good player.”
The Dragons’ offense continued to struggle as they had only mustered six points 14 minutes into the second half.
“We just got stuck on 35 for a long time,” Nelson said. “And I usually love that number because it was my number in college, but tonight I didn’t particularly love it.”
MSUM’s offense is led by Meghan Roerich, but the guard couldn’t find her rhythm and the team didn’t have another player hitting shots to pick up the slack.
“We’re trying to develop our team, we’re very young,” Nelson said. “We need to become a better shooting team, there’s no doubt about that. The key for us is developing a primary scorer and second and third threats will be key as well.”
One of the bench players that helped get the Dragons back into the game was Cheyenne Ironheart. The athletic guard finished with eight points including a big basket down the stretch.
“[Ironheart] brings athleticism,” Nelson said. “She’s going to continue to get more playing time and played really good off the bench. She had some nice passes and shots. What a fan doesn’t really see is the defensive end, and she’s going to continue to improve.”
The defense kept the Dragons in the game as the clock ticked away.
Heather Strese came away with a big steal and also forced a turnover to help cut the lead down to two. After failing to tie the game, MSUM had to foul Colla, who sank both free throws to round out the score 49-45.
“Second half it felt like a little bit of fatigue,” said Nelson. “We weren’t as sharp and we missed a lot of shots.”
The Dragons are now 0-2, but with all the new faces on the roster, coach Nelson knows they can turn it around once they find their rhythm.
“I’m disappointed we lost two games at home,” Nelson said. “I’m happy to see we improved after last night’s game. We have five freshmen and two transfers. With 12 girls on the team, over half our roster is new and we’re going to continue to get better.”
The Dragons’ next game is Thursday on the road against San Francisco State University, Calif. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.