HOUGHTON - Muddling through a halting 24-point first half, the Michigan Tech women's basketball team was searching for a spark Thursday night to separate from sub-.500 Northwood.
It came from an unexpected source.
Despite playing just three minutes in the opening half, junior guard Kelcey Traynoff (3.5 points per game) came off the bench midway through the second period to shoot Tech into a double-digit lead with back-to-back threes for the game's crucial run.
Michigan Tech’s Emily Harrison struggles with Northwood’s Janell Smith, left, and Kaitlin Susan during Thursday’s game at the SDC Gym. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Energized, the Huskies stretched the lead to as much as 20 before eventually settling for a 70-57 victory. The win kept Tech in pace for the No. 4 seed in the GLIAC Tournament - and the home quarterfinal game that comes with it - and in line to protect their No. 6 Midwest Regional seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
"That was so awesome," senior guard Sam Hoyt, who led all scorers with 23 points, said. "It was great to see, we all know she can do it, and she is such a great shooter. Last game she was 3-for-3 (from three) and she comes down and knocks down a couple more today. It got us going and it was just great to see. Great for her and great for us. that kind of put us over the top."
Traynoff first got on the board with a triple from the wing after Hoyt kicked out to her on a foray into the lane. Coach Kim Cameron dialed up a play to free the dead-eye perimeter shooter - nailing 52 percent of her threes this season - once again the next trip down the court.
Northwood (11-15, 9-11 GLIAC)
Gabrielle Rivette 1-4 0-0 2; Kaitlin Susan 5-9 2-2 12; Rachel Church 1-7 0-0 3; Lauren Robak 2-11 5-7 9; Aleigha Wylie 1-2 1-2 3; Jennifer Jarema 0-0 0-0 0; Janell Smith 1-4 0-0 2; Sarah Spring 0-3 0-0 0; Jordyn Nurenberg 6-10 6-8 18; Taylor Roe 1-1 0-1 2; Sarah Trierweller 1-2 0-0 2; Sarah Susan 1-3 2-2 4; Totals 20-56 16-22 57.
Michigan Tech (17-7, 15-5 GLIAC)
Jillian Ritchie 1-5 8-8 11; Kylie Moxley 4-9 3-4 11; Emma Veach 3-4 0-0 7; Sam Hoyt 7-19 6-7 23; Danielle Blake 0-2 1-2 1; Michelle Gaedke 0-2 0-0 0; Mackenzie Perttu 0-0 0-0 0; Kelcey Traynoff 2-4 2-2 2; Paige Albi 0-1 1-2 1; Emily Harrison 4-9 0-0 8; Totals 21-55 21-25 70.
Halftime score: Tech 24, NU 23.
3-point goals - NU 1-12 (Rivette 0-1, Church 1-4, Robak 0-4, Smith 0-1, Nurenberg 0-1, S. Susan 0-1), Tech 7-12 (Ritchie 1-2, Veach 1-1, Hoyt 3-7, Traynoff 2-2); Rebounds - NU 34 (Nurenberg 6), Tech 42 (Veach 10); Assists - NU 10 (Smith 4), Tech 15 (Hoyt 7); Total fouls - NU 20, Tech 16; Fouled out - none; Technical fouls - none; Attendance - 754.
A solid pick down low and pass from Emma Veach freed Traynoff in the corner.
The whole bench erupted as the ball sliced through the net.
Cameron was most impressed by the poise Traynoff exhibited in such a crucial moment, despite erratic playing time this season.
"She hit her first one and then we ran a play for her and she hit her second one," Cameron said. "That is the sign of a confident player. She is getting comfortable and handling the pressure of us calling a play for her. You can hit the first one, but the second one was fantastic."
Hoyt followed up on the next play with a missed three-point attempt, but a Traynoff offensive rebound and dish gave Hoyt a second chance from virtually the same spot.
Does anyone think Hoyt was going to miss twice?
"I was like, 'You know what, I'll just do it again. Whatever,'" Hoyt said of the triple to give Tech a 14-point lead with 12 minutes to play. "I probably won't miss twice in a row from the same spot."
For the game, Tech connected on 7-of-12 threes while Northwood chucked to a 1-for-12 mark.
The 18-point difference from the perimeter largely came from Hoyt's defensive work on Timberwolves three-point gunner Rachel Church.
Northwood's leading scorer, Church averages over eight attempts from deep per game with the Timberwolves offense designed to free her through a number of off-ball screens. Hoyt chased and darted and harried Church into a 1-for-7 performance Thursday night, completely negating Northwood's biggest threat.
"I do enjoy it," Hoyt said of drawing Church defensively. "There is like hype around her, she is the best three-point shooter in the league or whatever so it gets you excited to play. You have to get out on every play every time, and you have to always know where she is. It get's me excited to play. I love it."
With Hoyt, Emma Veach (3-for-4) and Traynoff providing threats outside, the Huskies were able to establish a consistent post presence - something that has gone dormant from time to time this season - with the rotation of centers Kylie Moxley (11 points) and Emily Harrison (eight points).
As help-side defense had to stick close to the perimeter threats, Moxley and Harrison were able to seal their Northwood counterparts multiple times for lobs and layups over the top.
Hoyt (seven assists) and Veach (five assists) were more than happy to set their younger teammates up.
"When (Harrison) keeps it high, she can finish those shots all day," Hoyt said. "I'm going to throw it to her all day when she does that. She really provided a great spark today."
"It wasn't perfect, but they had to pay attention to our post players," Cameron added. "We took out the help, which allowed us to skip and get a couple shooters open and then we got a couple lobs over the top."