No. 18 Michigan Tech locks up SVSU, wins GLIAC opener 59-37

Michigan Tech’s Brenna Heise drives to the basket against Saginaw Valley State Thursday, at the Wood Gym. Heise led Tech with 20 points. (David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Despite a 6-1 start, Michigan Tech coach Kim Cameron knew her team’s defensive execution was not where it needed to be to remain as one of the nation’s top teams. The Huskies allowed 65.9 points per game — tied for the highest average in Cameron’s eight-year tenure as head coach. 

But in Tech’s 59-37 GLIAC win over the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals on Thursday at the Wood Gym, the No. 18 Huskies finally delivered a defensive performance that meets their program’s standards. 

“I thought we did better as far as stopping them from getting to the basket,” Cameron said. “We’re so happy to be able to see all of our hard pay off. Everybody took pride in it. We’re constantly working on communication on the floor. 

“We’re better, we’re not great, yet, but if we can continue to improve, we’re going to be OK.”

The Cardinals, who feature no seniors, scored just four points in the opening quarter and shot 11 of 52 from the field (21 percent) for the game. They also finished with 14 turnovers in a game where “out of synch” would kindly describe the team’s offense. 

SVSU entered as statistically the GLIAC’s worst offense, averaging league-lows in points per game (60) and field goal percentage (36), and they were lucky to crack 30 points, thanks to 11 points over the final 3:27 as Tech emptied its bench. SVSU (0-7, 0-1) was just 7 of 46 from the field and had 26 points up to that point.

The biggest area of concern for Cameron was her players winning their individual battles in their man-to-man defense. Not getting beat off the dribble allowed the Huskies (7-1, 1-0 GLIAC) to stay in system and not scramble on their rotations, and the individual challenge was one her players readily accepted. 

“We just focused on our one-on-ones,” Tech senior Brenna Heise said, who led the Huskies with 20 points. “We take it personally. We know we pride ourselves on defense, so when we’re giving up 80 points in a game, we don’t like that. We rather play a tight defensive game than score 80 points. Everyone just buckled down.”

Heise scored her 20 points on 9 of 14 shots. Her 3 from the left wing with 5:13 left in the second quarter gave Tech a 21-10 lead. It’s the fourth consecutive game she’s reached double digits, and after averaging just 7 points over the first four games of the season, she’s now averaging 22 points over the last four contests. 

“Just being more aggressive on offense and attacking the basket and hunting my shot,” Heise said of the difference in the last four games. “Just making sure I’m involved in all the plays, whether that is scoring or making the extra pass or getting the rebound.”

As dominant as Tech was, defending the offensive glass remains an issue. The Huskies allowed 16 offensive rebounds with 13 coming in the first half. In Tech’s last four games, they’ve allowed an average of 13.5 offensive boards per game. 

“It’s not a stop until the ball is in your hands,” Cameron said. “Giving up 16 offensive rebounds is something that we’re definitely going to address and work better at for next game.”

Both teams got off to slow starts in front of a crowd of 876, as Tech missed its first four shots and SVSU was off target on its first five. Neither team scored until Tech senior Lindsay Winter converted a driving lay 3:17 into the game. Tech shot 25 of 53 (47 percent) for the contest. 

The Huskies will host a Northwood Timberwolves team (4-2, 1-0 GLIAC) on Saturday at 1 p.m. that features more offensive weapons than SVSU. Senior guards Lindsay Orwat (18.8 points per game) and Maddy Seeley (12.5) were named to the All-GLIAC South Preseason Team. 

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SVSU 4 12 7 14 — 37

Tech 10 15 19 15 — 59

SVSU — Duffy 3, Hall 5, Settingsgaard 4, Schultz 2, Jacqmain 12, Wells 1, Cook 4, Coury 4, Crockett 3. F: 13; Fouled out: Crockett; Free throws: 12-23; 3-point field goals: Coury, Jacqmain, Hall. 

Tech — Stoll 10, Kelliher 4, Guy 2, Winter 8, Heise 20, Trotter 8, Hobson 3, Welsh 2, O’Brien 2. F: 14; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 7-9; 3-point field goals: Heise 2.