HOUGHTON - Mathematically it would not be over.
But a loss to Wayne State today would put the Michigan Tech women's basketball team down two games in the standings with four to play, and a repeat of their GLIAC North Championship would go on life support.
So even with a slate of tough contests to follow - on the road at Northwood and Northern Michigan especially for Tech - it feels like the GLIAC championship is being decided today at the SDC.
Michigan Tech’s Jillian Ritchie drives on a Northern Michigan player during the Huskies’ game earlier this month at the SDC?Gym. The Huskies return home tonight to play Wayne State. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
But a clash of the top two conference teams leaves a lasting impression.
"It felt like this the last time we played them," Tech coach Kim Cameron said. "And where this game is in the schedule, at our gym, against a really good opponent, it does feel like the biggest game this season. But it felt this way the last time we played them, and it felt this way against Northwood and against Northern. It's kind of crazy how big all these games have been.
"If we win, we control our own destiny."
The Warriors are coming off a loss to Saginaw Valley (in Detroit) last Saturday, but one that comes with an asterisk.
Wayne did not play Player of the Year candidate Shareta Brown - or rotation regulars Kristen Long and Brittany Streetman - in the first half for a violation of team rules. Saginaw jumped to a nine-point halftime lead and made it stick for an 85-78 victory.
As Cameron can attest to, getting Brown and her 20.8 points per game and 11.6 rebounds per game out of the lineup can do wonders for a lineup.
The Huskies held Brown to six minutes and two points in the first half of their January meeting thanks to some early foul trouble, but the bruising center recovered to post 14 points with eight rebounds in the second half as Wayne won 74-63.
"Getting her out of the game takes away such a presence," Cameron said. "And you can go back to your regular defense because she can't be defended with just one person. in the second half she took it to us pretty good."
The Huskies will be trying a new approach with Brown this time - at least, partially - as sophomore center Kylie Moxley remains sidelined with a back injury.
Junior Emily Harrison played 38 minutes over the last two games to help replace Moxley, by far her highest total this season.
Cameron said the 6-foot-4 Harrison will get her shot at single-covering Brown, relying on her length to affect the 6-foot-1 Wayne State junior.
If that does not work, a combination of double-teaming, fronting and trapping will be on the docket.
"I'm excited and I think she is excited for the opportunity," Cameron said. "Emily wants to guard her and for me that is exciting. I don't think (Brown) has not seen that length yet, so it will be interesting to see if someone can at least try to stop her one on one."
Moxley's absence has led to a change of approach on offense as well.
Without the sophomore linchpin in the center, Cameron has fielded more shooters - freshmen Kelli Guy and Morgan Anderson are both in line for a minutes boost - to try and combat Wayne's superior size with a drive-and-kick offense.
The Huskies misfired on 16-of-19 three-pointers during the loss in Detroit, and were held without a field goal for a nine-minute stretch.
That cannot happen for Tech to be successful tonight.
"We've gone smaller," Cameron said. "We are playing more shooters. Morgan (Anderson) and Kelli (Guy) are going to see more reps but we went 3-for-19 down there so our shooters have something to prove."