Women’s basketball scrapes by Northern Michigan, suffers second loss of season


Courtesy / GVSU Athletics

Brian Bloom, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team (17-2) traveled upstate to face off with GLIAC rivals Northern Michigan University and Michigan Tech University and split the games 1-1. 

Against the Wildcats on Jan. 19, the Lakers captured a 45-38 victory but saw its five-game winning streak snapped in heart-breaking fashion with a 56-57 loss against the Huskies on Jan. 21.

The Wildcats began the game on a 2-9 run following a transition three off of a Laker turnover. Despite the slow start, the Lakers would climb back into the game as layups by redshirt sophomore guard Ellie Droste and senior forward Hannah Kulas brought the deficit to three (6-9). 

GVSU closed the opening quarter on a 7-0 run capped off by a jump shot by sophomore guard Abrie Cabana. Scoring came at a premium in the second and third quarters, as the two teams combined for just 25 points.

After nearly two minutes into the second quarter without a score, Bisballe found her way into the paint to tie the game at 15. Two-point buckets by Kulas, redshirt freshman guard Paige Vanstee and senior guard Emily Spitzley helped GVSU close the half on a 7-0 run to take a slim 23-21 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Lakers’ suffocating defense allowed two points to be scored by the Wildcats in the third while Droste’s four of GVSU’s five-total points gave the Lakers a 30-23 lead that they would not relinquish.

The shots began to fall for both teams in the final quarter as NMU outscored the Lakers 13-15, but the game would fall in favor of GVSU as they recorded their lowest points-scored victory of the season, 45-38.

A tough 30.8% FG tally (18% 3PT) from the Lakers was backed by a much-needed paint performance as they outscored Northern Michigan 26-12 and outrebounded them 42-32. 

Droste led the team in scoring with 10 points to go along with six rebounds and two steals as Vanstee followed with eight points and seven boards.

Seeing 15 minutes of action this game, redshirt freshman guard Nicole Kamin said the Lakers’ deep bench allows for the team to win on tough shooting nights like this.

“Our bench is really strong,” Kamin said. “You can pick anyone (off of the bench) and they make an impact. They bring energy, when something goes wrong, they’re able to pick up the slack.”

The second game of the week against Michigan Tech saw Spitzley leading the team with seven early points. The Lakers still found themselves trailing 9-10 with 5:50 left in the first, but a comeback led by Droste, Cabana and Spitzley allowed for a 10-2 run to take a 19-12 lead going into the second quarter.

The Lakers kept the momentum going, as Bisballe and Kulas got into the paint for easy layups and Kamin found a rhythm later in the quarter, nailing two three-pointers to give the GVSU a commanding 31-17 lead (highest lead of the game). However, the Huskies would cut the lead to ten going into the halftime break, 31-21.

“We have a really strong team and my teammates found me for the open threes, and I made my shots more efficiently,” Kamin said.

An unanswered 12-point run by the Huskies to start the second half created a two-point lead for the opponent, but the Lakers responded with a 10-0 run of their own to take a 41-33 lead with just over two minutes to play in the third. Two free throws by Kamin and a three-pointer by Kulas helped GVSU build an eight-point lead going into the final quarter.

A dramatic fourth quarter would ensue with GVSU maintaining their lead up until just under the final two minutes (1:47) as the Huskies clawed their way back in front with a 52-53 lead.

In the final minute, Spitzley made the second of two free throws to give the team a 55-53 lead, but a huge shot by the Huskies tied the game with just two seconds left on the clock. Kamin managed to draw a foul with two seconds remaining while stepping to the free-throw line. 

Sinking the first and putting the Lakers up by one, Kamin would miss the second – eventually leading to a tough game-winning shot at the buzzer by Northern Michigan to down GVSU, 56-57.

“We knew they were going to shoot the ball in our face and we didn’t close out well enough,” said Head Coach Mike Williams. “Offensively, we had some bad shots and some shots that just weren’t falling.”

Despite the heartbreaking loss, Kamin led the team with 16 points on 5-10 shooting while Bisballe had a near double-double, scoring nine points to go with her game-leading ten rebounds off the bench. Spitzley added ten points of her own, while Kulas scored seven off the bench. 

“We don’t want to lose,” said redshirt sophomore forward Rylie Bisballe. “The loss against Lewis (University) gave us a sense of urgency. We wanted to get two road wins, but that didn’t happen.”

GVSU looks to get back on the winning side when they host Purdue-Northwest University and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside on Jan. 26 and Jan. 28.

“We need to get better with the ball and have much better shot selection,” Williams said. “Defensively we weren’t active to start the third quarter…we didn’t have much of a sense of urgency. There are lots of areas we have to work on (and) if we want to be successful we have to be willing to put in the work.”