Huskies must go to glass vs. Wayne

HOUGHTON – Hosting Wayne State in January, the Michigan Tech women’s basketball team gave up 10 offensive rebounds en route to a 77-56 win.

And coach Kim Cameron was thrilled with her team’s effort on the boards.

This should speak quite clearly to the prowess with which the Warriors attack the offensive glass.

“It felt like we did great and then looking back on the stats, they still got double-digits,” Cameron said.

“There is a recipe to their success. They get 18 extra shots for the game just by outworking and keeping the ball alive. It is hard but you have to do it to put yourself in a position to win.”

The Warriors lead Tech by one half-game in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference North Division and that lead has been built on the strength of their frontcourt players.

Senior center Juanita Cochran grabs 4.4 offensive rebounds per game, Talisha Bridges comes up with 3.1 per contest and Phaebre Colbert chips in another 2.4 per game. Eight total players average at least one offensive board a game with the team grabbing an average of 18.8 over a 40-minute span.

Between Cochran (who pulled in seven against Tech) and Bridges, the backboard often becomes an extra pass for a layup.

“(Cochran) does such a good job of keeping the ball high,” Cameron said. “And they attack the basket so much that with your defense shifting to help, even if they miss it, that is a hard rebound because you are shifting your defense.”

Tech freshman center Kylie Moxley will be tasked with the unpleasant responsibility of marking Cochran. Moxley ranks sixth overall on Tech’s roster with just 2.3 defensive rebounds per game.

“There is no question this will be tough, but she has come a long way,” Cameron said. “I thought her game against Grand Valley showed how far she has come because the first time against Grand Valley, she wasn’t ready. And that is a big, strong team, and I thought she was calm and under control (Saturday) and there was a very visible difference between the first and second time she played them.”

To overtake the Warriors for the North Division lead, Tech will need to handle pressure both mental and literal.

Making best use of their athleticism, Wayne presses all game whether leading or trailing and forces nine steals a contest as a result.

In the January win, MacKenzie Perttu shined attacking that press to lead Tech with 20 points and four assists. With Perttu sidelined with a knee injury, someone else will have to step up to ease the pressure on Sam Hoyt.

Cameron is counting on backup point guard Michelle Gaedke to play that pivotal role.

“They are going to come with a ton of pressure,” Cameron said. “We have to have some (besides Hoyt) who can handle that pressure and take care of the basketball. I do think Michelle can handle that and it is up to us to make sure she is mentally strong and knows her biggest role is to take care of the basketball.”

The Huskies will also be looking for senior guard Emma Veach to continue playing with the assertive edge she showed Saturday in the win over Grand Valley.

Veach, a very capable ball-handler, occasionally defers to teammates when her authority is needed. Against a pressure-defense like Wayne’s, that can lead to trouble.

“She must play aggressively in order for us to be successful,” Cameron said. “She has to.”

With a win, the Huskies would take a lead on the Warriors and hold the tiebreaker with four contests remaining in the season for Tech and five for Wayne. The challenge for Cameron is to keep the game at the pace the Huskies want, and not let the emotions of the situation dictate play.

“This is awesome, this is why you play,” Cameron said. “But we have to control the tempo, we can’t turn it over and let (Wayne) get going.”