HOUGHTON - To hear Michigan Tech women's basketball coach Kim Cameron speak of it, the Huskies game against Northern Michigan today won't be so much a contest of which team is better dribbling, shooting and passing a basketball, but which squad can stare into the bright lights the longest without blinking.
Protecting a spot in the NCAA Tournament, an outside shot at the GLIAC North Division title, seeding for the conference tourney, the last regular season game for seniors Sam Hoyt and Emma Veach and seeking rivalry revenge on top of everything - Cameron has coached to the mental side of things this week as much as any Xs and Os.
And with good reason. Motivation won't be a concern for the pressure-packed affair, but effectively controlling that emotion could be.
"I have probably thought about it at least every day since we played them last," Hoyt said. "I am so excited for this game it is not even funny.
"It is going to be mentally tough, physically tough, everything. First it is against Northern, and then it is the end of the year so everyone is fighting for something. It is just a huge, huge game."
"I would really pick our team when it comes down to the mental toughness part of it," Cameron added. "It is interesting because all across the country, in the Big Ten (men's basketball) and at Duke you see the ones, twos and threes falling. But when we are faced with a mental challenge and need to be mentally tough I think we are winners, I really do."
Of course, Northern has plenty left to play for on their own.
A win and the Wildcats are in the GLIAC Tournament. A loss and it is out of their hands.
A season sweep of Tech would be delicious icing on the cake.
"(We) will definitely play with a chip on their shoulder. Let me tell you, we don't need to (play with a chip on their shoulder), we are going to," Cameron said. "It has been a very long week. You look at all the things you let slip away (in the 69-60 loss in February) and we had to change the tone on Wednesday and move forward and emphasize ways that we can win instead of focusing on everything we did to lose."
In the defeat in Marquette, Hoyt has been haunted by the 15-point lead Tech squandered and the 13 offensive rebounds allowed and 34 free throw attempts given up.
All of those stats speak to discipline, something the Huskies lacked in the second half.
"We fouled them a lot, they got (34 free throws)," Hoyt said. "A big part of it was we gave up the offensive rebound and then fouled them on the next shot. You just can't do that."
A difference-maker this time around could be the emergence of center Emily Harrison.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore has been averaging 19 minutes per game over the last three contests - all Tech wins - and has been chipping in three blocks per game to go with 8.6 points over that span.
Her presence will be important in combating Northern post-threat Nea Makela inside.
"I think she has been a difference-maker at the end of our season," Cameron said. "I think she has made the breakthrough. she didn't play the last time we played Northern and so I told her this week, 'make sure you introduce yourself to them.'"