Tech women control glass, Malone

HOUGHTON – The offense isn’t there yet. But if the Michigan Tech women’s basketball team keeps defending and rebounding the way it did Thursday night against Malone, the young roster will be given plenty of cushion to learn to score as the season progresses.

Opening GLIAC play, the Pioneers represented a singular challenge for the Huskies.

Keep Malone off the offensive glass, and you keep them off the scoreboard.

The Husky players did their job and then some in the 53-48 victory, allowing just five offensive boards for the night, less than a third of Malone’s season average of 18.5 per game.

“That was the big emphasis of ours, and we just got it done,” Tech sophomore Dani Blake said. “Everyone worked really hard on the boards. It was awesome.”

Blake grabbed 11 rebounds while Paige Albi came off the bench to snag eight.

The Huskies actually led Malone in second-chance points, scoring six of their own and holding the Pioneers to just three.

“They average 18, and we held them to five,” Tech coach Kim Cameron said. “I’m really happy.

“It is all toughness.”

“Honestly, when we do boxing out drills, whoever has to box out Paige has the hardest job on the court. She always goes hard to the boards, offensive and defensive,” Blake added. “She just flies in there grabbing the ball.”

Unable to get second or third opportunities, Malone couldn’t crack the smothering Tech defense.

Driving lanes were closed down and shooters were given little room to breathe.

Holding a slender lead, Tech allowed just four points in the final seven minutes as Malone struggle to make one final push.

Sophomore point guard Kerry Gardner and Blake shined in particular, as Gardner helped corral Malone’s only scoring threat – Selana Reale, who finished with 18 points but four turnovers – while Blake chipped in a steal,

block, altered (and missed) layup and helped seal the win with a huge defensive rebound and two made free throws to give Tech a two-possession lead.

“That was the emphasis for the entire 12 days (between) games since the torture of last Saturday’s loss to Duluth,” Cameron said. “They took a ton of pride in that. Those were big plays in key moments. Had to get a stop with the backs against the wall and they did it.”

“We knew we had to finish the game strong,” Blake added. “Just heads-up plays.”

Tech needed every one of those defensive plays as the offense stopped and stalled for much of the 40 minutes.

Both teams shot just 35 percent from the field, while Tech misfired on 15-of-21 three-point attempts.

Kylie Moxley led the Huskies with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, but often struggled to get the ball in the spaces she wanted it, while Blake chipped in 12 points but also committed four turnovers.

Post entry passing continues to be a problem, both with the timing of the ball going in and the accuracy.

“We get kind of stagnant on offense,” Blake said. “Coach says that we are very cookie-cutter sometimes. We just need to gel and play to our strengths, instead of sticking to exactly what the offense says we do. It will come as we play more together.”