HOUGHTON - It's Northern Week, with a capital 'W'.
That means it is time for the Michigan Tech women's basketball team to find that little extra hop in their Nikes. Time to psych themselves up to perform in front of a vocal crowd - both for and against the Huskies. It is a week senior point guard Sam Hoyt relishes.
Tech will travel to the Berry Events Center Saturday - with a bus full of fans trailing - for the first of two meetings this season with rival Northern Michigan.
Michigan Tech’s Jillian Ritchie looks for an opening in the Saginaw Valley defense during their game Jan. 19 at the SDC?Gym. The Huskies are at Northern Michigan Saturday. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
All the usual clichs apply.
"It is more passion, more excitement. It is Northern," Hoyt said. "We just want to beat them really bad. Everyone is intense in practice, everyone is focused, everyone is ready to go.
"You walk by somebody in the halls and they all go, 'Big game this week, a real big game.' Oh yeah, we are ready to go."
"You sleep a little less, you talk a little more smack," Tech coach Kim Cameron added. "It is exciting, I just think it is really exciting. You find this really great competitiveness and you get a whole week to really think about it. And everybody talks about it. It doesn't matter what the records are, all (fans) have to hear is 'Northern' and it is "Oh, get them, get them.' It makes it fun."
The Huskies (13-5, 11-3 GLIAC) have won five straight against their Marquette rivals and currently enjoy a four-game lead in the GLIAC standings.
Most importantly though, the Huskies have Hoyt and the Wildcats (10-8, 7-7 GLIAC) do not.
The senior point guard has been on an unreal tear the last four games, averaging 22 points per contest on 57 percent shooting. Combined with her ball-handling and defensive responsibilities on the opponent's top perimeter player, and Hoyt has reached a level of play few can match.
"She is not losing right now, that is the simplest way to put it," Cameron said. "She has made a conscious effort to be the one to step up in big games. She has been good in the first half, and then when it is the second half and it's go time and time to decide who wins the game, she is clearly standing out.
"It is awesome to have that on your team, that's for sure."
When to assert herself has always been a tricky line for Hoyt to find, but Cameron believes that the pressure of her senior year - and the sheer desperation to go out on a high note - has pushed Hoyt into controlling games recently with the touch of a maestro.
"There is a sense of urgency you get as a senior," Cameron said. "When you realize it is going to be over (soon) you want to go out with a bang. And when you get into that Christmas break time, there is an 'oh-my-gosh' moment where it's like 'where did the time go?' And that is where we are right now."
Hoyt reluctantly agrees.
"I try not to think about that, but yeah I think that is a part of that," she said.
With Hoyt seizing the role of the primary scorer, the rest of the pieces have fallen neatly into place for the Huskies recently.
Tech sits at No. 2 in the GLIAC in scoring with 71.4 points per game - No. 2 in three-point shooting, No. 2 in assists and No. 2 in fewest turnovers - buoyed by a lineup with threats at all five positions.
Where Kylie Moxley, Mackenzie Perttu and Emma Veach have all had big games scoring this season, forward Jillian Ritchie took a turn last weekend.
The sophomore set her career high Thursday at Northwood with 15 points and followed it up with 11 points (3-for-3 from three) Saturday at Lake Superior State.
"Northern usually throws some trick at us where they double over off someone who is not shooting that well, but I think that is going to be hard for them to do this year because I think everybody is a threat," Hoyt said. "All of us can score."