HOUGHTON - On Thanksgiving, Michigan Tech women's basketball coach Kim Cameron gave thanks for the holiday itself and the seven days between games that accompanied Thanksgiving break and allowed for her team to correct its early-season defensive struggles.
With a 90-80 win over Concordia-St. Paul and 83-82 loss to Minnesota Duluth on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, the Huskies gave up more than 80 points in back-to-back games for the first time since February 1989.
So heading into a matchup at No. 16 Wisconsin-Parkside last Saturday, the Huskies desperately needed a return to form.
"I think that the Thanksgiving break was really good for us, it came at a really good time," Cameron said. "That game against Duluth was heartbreaking. Your senior leader (Sam Hoyt) makes two free throws to put you up two with three seconds to play and (you lose on a buzzerbeater) and it took a lot of wind out of our sails."
The week of practice would not be qualified as scintillating basketball.
Cameron set her team working on all aspects of the defense, drilling help-side, ball screen and rebounding over and over again.
"We lost sight of what we are built on. We win on defense," Cameron said. "So we took the Thanksgiving break to really focus on every part of our defensive philosophy and emphasize how important it is. Our goal in conference is to lead in points per game (against), because that always gives you a chance to win even when the ball isn't going in the basket."
It paid off.
The Huskies grabbed a 66-53 win at Parkside - holding the Wisconsin school to a dominating 0.80 points per possession and 33 percent shooting - to right the ship just in time for Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play to begin tonight at Malone.
"I was really happy with the way we responded to a week of practice after a loss where we were just drilling them with defense," Cameron said.
"We needed Parkside. As a team, all of us needed to get that and prove to ourselves that we can be that team."
Now the Huskies must prove the Parkside performance wasn't a one-game blip against a Pioneer team that is averaging 79 points per game through a 3-0 start.
Malone will test the Huskies' mental focus primarily, as the rookie GLIAC group runs an offense based almost solely on cuts to the hoop.
Operating under the guise of a motion offense, Malone sends cutters in on back screens from every conceivable angle on the floor. The offense does not focus around any one player, with Deborah Simmers leading the scoring at 10 points per game.
"They can definitely score the basketball," Cameron said. "They have a unique motion offense. It is a lot of the same, over and over again and they are very good at it. We know what they are going to do, and it is whether or not you fall asleep. You can't fall asleep for a second.
"(I hate to admit this), but I really like (their offense). It has good spacing and they run it well."
Tech will then head to another GLIAC newcomer, Walsh, on Saturday. The Cavaliers are a bit of an unknown, having played - and won - just one game this season.