Husky scout team saves the day

HOUGHTON – The Lake Erie pressure defense that so worried Michigan Tech women’s basketball coach Kim Cameron forced the Huskies into 20 turnovers Thursday night. The cold shooting from the Indianapolis loss Sunday returned with a vengeance, resulting in a 2-for-16 performance from three and just five made field goals in the first half. The starting five for Tech combined to go 4-for-20 from the field.

Freshman Kylie Moxley relegated that heap of trouble to a dispensable footnote and motivational fodder, however, thanks to a bruising, career-high 26 points in the paint on 10-of-11 shooting to lead the Huskies to a 59-45 victory over the Storm.

Ugly or pretty – and this one will not make for an entertaining video review – they all count the same in the win column come March, and Tech improved to 6-1 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (8-3 overall) to keep pace with Ferris State atop the North Division.

“We haven’t had someone like Kylie in a long time, so it is kind of fun to watch a post player get after it inside,” Cameron said. “She is tough and strong and uses her body really well. You can see she wants the basketball on the block where (historically) some of our better post players are shooters from 6 to 8 feet or 15 feet out.

“She brings a different dynamic to the offense and that’s so important.”

Moxley’s game is direct and uncomplicated, which serves as a breath of fresh air for a Black and Gold team that continues to make life harder on itself than it should with careless turnovers.

Six feet tall and powerfully built, Moxley puts herself 6 feet away from the rim, and doesn’t stop moving until she has the position she wants. The Storm had no answer for her as she drop-stepped and bulled her way to nine converted layups (and one seven-foot jumper) to go along with 6-of-7 conversions from the free throw line.

She was Tech’s only successful option in the first half, scoring 10 of the Huskies’ 21 points in nine minutes of action. This came after Moxley played just four minutes in the double-overtime loss to Indy.

Cameron was so enamored with the energy and assertiveness Moxley brought to the floor, Cameron started the freshman over Taylor Stippel to begin the second half. Moxley played 22 minutes by game’s end to Stippel’s 11.

“She was a standout in the first half and we were looking for someone that was going to bring us a little bit of energy and I thought that she brought that above everyone,” Cameron said. “I thought it was the right decision to go with her because we were looking for a spark.”

Moxley rewarded Cameron’s commitment with 16 more second-half points to help power Tech past an offensively helpless Storm team.

“I felt like (the defense) was on my back the whole time so I didn’t have to fight them to get positioning,” Moxley said. “And then credit to my teammates for getting me the ball. They did a great job getting it to me where I was open.

“She just told me to go out there and be strong and keep doing what I was doing,” Moxley added of the second half start.

The freshman post served as the lone bright spot, however, with 15 team turnovers and 26 percent shooting in the first half.

Cameron tried any and every lineup combination in the opening 20 minutes to try and spark the team, including playing little-used Kerry Gardner and Heather Kessler for a combined 12 minutes.

With five minutes remaining in the game and Tech leading by just six, there was not a single starter for the Huskies on the floor. Of the starting five, only Paige Albi and Jillian Ritchie saw any playing time in the final five minutes.

This was partially done out of concern for the game’s physical nature – Cameron removed Hoyt partially to prevent the point guard from taking any unnecessary abuse – but mostly because the reserves were playing as well if not better.

“I was looking for anything that was going to bring us some excitement and bring us pride in our game and in the women’s basketball game,” Cameron said. “We were carelessly throwing the ball away and turning it over with travels and it never stopped. Every single person was doing it. At that point I was looking for people who were ready to be mentally sharp, and catch and jump stop and go back to the basics. It wasn’t OK.

“Our second string did their jobs fantastically.”

While Lake Erie was able to prevent Tech from developing any sort of rhythm on offense, the Storm completely failed to create opportunities outside of leading scorer Ashar Harris.

Bizarrely, the Storm offensive sets would often involve holding the ball near the top of the key until the shot clock reached 10 seconds. And while Harris was given plenty of opportunities to go at Ritchie, the Tech sophomore more than held her own against the Morehead State transfer, limiting Harris to 5-of-14 shooting.

“I thought Jillian was very good,” Cameron said. “(Harris) is tough, and holding her to 5-14 is a good, good job.”

Outside of Moxley, Tech struggled to a 6-of-32 mark from the field, but were able to win by double digits thanks to 25-of-28 shooting from the free throw line. The Huskies converted on their first 18 free throw attempts of the game.

“If you are not making shots, you have to get to the line and you have to make them,” Cameron said. “We did a good job of that at least.”