HOUGHTON - The Michigan Tech women's basketball team spent much of Saturday looking for an edge, any edge, to separate themselves from visiting Wisconsin-Parkside in a contest that rarely wavered between one or two possessions either way.
Shooting guard Mackenzie Perttu provided it.
The sophomore flashed her full range of talents Saturday, leading Tech with 23 points on an efficient 7-of-15 shooting.
She was at her best when the Huskies needed her most as well, scoring eight points in a decisive 18-5 run in the final six minutes to help bury the Rangers 80-67 in a game closer than the final score indicated.
"Kenzie's offensive ability is probably the best we have," Tech coach Kim Cameron said. "There was a difference in the way she approached this game. Everything about the way she came out, the way that she attacked the basket. she looked comfortable, she looked aggressive."
Perttu got to the free throw line seven times (making six), grabbed four rebounds and dished four assists to go along with a trio of three-pointers as she influenced the outcome from every direction.
In the winning-run, she simply put her head down and got to the basket at will, earning five free throws and and a pair of layups as Parkside failed to handle her quickness and aggressiveness.
"A lot of their better players were in foul trouble, so I wanted to attack and get to the line," Perttu said.
It was a welcome sight for Black and Gold fans from a player that has always enjoyed game-breaking talent, but doesn't always play to the level of her abilities.
"Her ability to take it and go was the difference in this game," Cameron said.
"We have been missing that. I don't think she has played up to her talent all the time and the standard that she holds herself to."
Before Perttu and the Huskies overwhelmed the Rangers, the contest could have tipped either way.
Parskide guard Danielle Slivka was matching Perttu move for move, scoring 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting while Parkside as a whole enjoyed a 40-20 advantage scoring in the paint.
The Tech defense failed to cutoff dribble penetration from a trio of talented guards - Tara Knapstein (15 points) and Gaby Bronson (12 points) succeeded as well - in a total collapse from both individual defenders and the help-side containment.
"They were shooting layups the whole time," Cameron said. "Individually we weren't containing and as a team we weren't helping. Individually we have to get better to make our team better. we have not been exposed like that in a long time. We are going to have to look at that."
To their credit, Tech did clamp down in the final six minutes to give themselves some breathing room.
Parkside shot just 2-for-10 during the 18-5 run and coughed up the ball three times.
"We did defend at a very important time. It could have gone one way or another," Cameron said. "We got a couple stops in a row, and we made our move."
Tech was able to then ice the game from the free throw line, taking advantage of a huge disparity (34-12) in attempts between the two teams.
Twelve of those 34 attempts came at the end of the game in intentional-foul situations, but the Huskies still earned easy points simply by being strong with the ball.
Parkside employed an aggressive defense that played physical up and down the court. Often too physical, as the Rangers were whistled for 27 fouls to Tech's 13.
"You see it on film that someone gets a rebound and they would go for the steal," Perttu said. "So we knew we just had to be strong with the ball."