HOUGHTON - In the February loss to Northern Michigan in Marquette, Michigan Tech women's basketball freshman Kylie Moxley was exposed.
Up to that point, the 6-foot post presence had been terrorizing the GLIAC with a combination of power and finesse to provide the perfect complement for a plethora of sharp-shooters on the outside. There was a fatal flaw in her game that stood out on tape, however, that threatened to derail the freshman's season.
Moxley refused to go left.
Michigan Tech’s Kylie Moxley drives past Northern Michigan’s Nea Makela during the first half of Saturday’s game at the SDC?Gym. Moxley had 20 points in Tech’s 71-58 win. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Several times against 6-foot-2 Wildcats freshman forward Nea Makela in the Berry Events Center, Moxley passed up a wide-open layup on her weak hand to unsuccessfully come back right. Unable to score efficiently one-on-one in the post, it left the offense halting and stagnant as Tech blew a double-digit second half lead to fall 69-60.
All of which made it deliciously satisfying for head coach Kim Cameron Saturday as the Huskies (18-7, 16-5 GLIAC) earned a share of the GLIAC North Division title with Wayne State behind 20 points from Moxley in a redemptive 71-58 win over the Wildcats.
By unofficial count, five times Moxley went left in the post, and five times points were produced, either via free throw or field goal.
Northern Michigan (13-12, 10-11 GLIAC)
Nea Makela 4-7 1-2 9; Abbey DeBruin 0-2 0-0 0; Alyssa Colla 3-8 2-2 8; Lauren Gruber 6-10 3-4 15; Anna Liewen 0-1 2-2 2; Annie Rubendunst 1-1 0-0 3; Maria Almquist 0-1 0-0 0; Sarah Miller 0-1 0-0 0; Katie Becker 1-2 0-0 2; Brooke Coenen 1-3 0-0 2; Alyson Matkovich 3-6 2-2 8; Courtney Lemon 3-4 0-0 9; Totals 22-46 10-12 58.
Michigan Tech (18-7, 16-5 GLIAC)
Jillian Ritchie 4-6 0-0 10; Kylie Moxley 7-14 6-7 20; Emma Veach 2-3 4-6 9; Sam Hoyt 5-12 0-0 12; Danielle Blake 4-6 0-0 8; Michelle Gaedke 0-0 0-0 0; Kerry Gardner 0-1 0-0 0; Kelcey Traynoff 0-1 3-4 3; Paige Albi 0-1 0-0 0; Emily Harrison 4-8 1-2 9; Heather Kessler 0-0 0-0 0; Totals 26-52 14-19 71.
3-point goals - NMU 4-9 (DeBruin 0-1, Colla 0-2, Rubendunst 1-1, Almquist 0-1, Lemon 3-4); Tech 5-12 (Ritchie 2-3, Veach 1-2, Hoyt 2-5, Gardner 0-1, Traynoff 0-1); Rebounds - NMU 31 (Colla 5), Tech 22 (Blake and Moxley 6); Assists - NMU 12 (Colla 5), Tech 16 (Blake 7); Total fouls - NMU 16, Tech 9; Fouled out - none; Technical fouls - none; Attendance - 1,952.
"She went left, she went so left," Cameron exclaimed. "I mean, she was awesome tonight, she was dominant. She could go left, she could go right and they couldn't stop her. For her to do that at this point in the season is exactly what we need. my heart is smiling a little right now."
It was the result of a month's worth of work for Moxley who stayed behind every practice with Cameron or assistant coach Maria Kasza focusing solely on her off-hand.
Neither the taller Makela nor Courtney Lemon could contain Moxley Saturday as the freshman spun, faked and willed her way to 7-of-14 shooting, plus four offensive rebounds.
"I think she really took it personally," Tech senior Sam Hoyt said. "And she has been working so hard on going left after every single practice since that game. We got it inside to her because we knew she could take it to their post players."
"It was about revenge, we wanted it so bad," Moxley added with a smile.
With some hot Northern shooting limiting Tech to a slim two-point lead at intermission, Moxley was heavily involved in the decisive 13-2 run to open the second half that buried the Wildcats for good.
The center chipped in eight points in the first four minutes of the second half and came up with two of her three steals to frustrate her freshman Wildcat counterpart.
Northern coach Troy Mattson called a timeout to try and halt the Huskies momentum but the day had been seized for good.
"When they called a timeout, at that point you feel like this is yours," Cameron said. "And there is no question in my mind that it started with (Moxley's) steal. Aside from all the baskets that Kylie made right away, that steal really drove us."
Tech was able to protect the lead from the initial burst by forcing 12 second-half turnovers with Jillian Ritchie, Moxley, Hoyt and Emma Veach all coming up with multiple steals. Throw in nine blocked shots - three each from Danielle Blake and Emily Harrison - and the Wildcats offense was too harassed to pose any real threat.
Most of the steals came after Northern had entered the ball in the post, with Tech guards swarming down and swiping at it.
"Usually (Cameron) does not let us do this, so it's a big deal," Hoyt began. "But their posts take a while (with the ball). It is back down, back down, dribble, dribble. So coach said, 'OK, if they are backing down with the ball, you can go in there and get a hand in.' I was like, 'Yes!' We were pretty excited, because we don't get to do that often, so we took advantage."
Tech shot 50 percent in its regular season finale to help clinch a piece of the GLIAC North title (along with Wayne State) after ceding the divisional honor to Ferris State last year.
From 2008 to 2011 the Huskies owned four consecutive North championships. As the No. 4 seed in the GLIAC Tournament, Tech will host Grand Valley State Wednesday.
"It was amazing to finish out the regular season like this in front of our great fans," Hoyt said.
"That is something to be proud of for everyone, all the hard work paid off," Moxley added.