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Tech (women) 78, Hillsdale 65
December 10, 2012 - Michael Bleach
HOUGHTON — In what is quickly becoming a familiar theme for the Michigan Tech women's basketball team, the Huskies were required to make a recommitment to defense Saturday to prevail in an early but crucial Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game.
Tech entered intermission against Hillsdale with a three-point deficit after allowing 47 first half points, the most this season in the initial 20 minutes.
Then, whether it be a fiery (or frightening) halftime speech from coach Kim Cameron, a sense of pride kicking in or just plain hard work, the Huskies came out a defense renewed and held the Chargers to 18 second half points — a 29 point difference — to end the weekend with a 78-65 win at the Student Development Complex.
To start the season, Tech allowed opponents to score 80 points in consecutive games for the first time since 1989, but responded by holding the following three opponents all under 60 points in road victories. They now sit at 3-1 in conference, along with five other teams in the GLIAC North Division.
"We took a lot more pride in our defense in the second half. Period," Cameron said. "And I think we were trying to focus on pride, and passion and sense of urgency, and things we didn't really have on Thursday (in a 73-65 loss to Findlay). We get a terrific atmosphere (at home) and people come for a good result. We have a lot of things in our favor and we want other teams to hate to play here. Thursday we let ourselves and other people down and we wanted to be better.
"To be able to go from 47 to 18 is really just a change in mentality."
The change in mentality resulted in a change in effort, with Tech closing out shooters with desperate zeal and harassing Wildcat ballhandlers as they attempted to come around picks.
And increase in physicality and hustle led to Hillsdale making just five field goals in the second half and shooting 29 percent for the game. Even with the 47 point first half, Hillsdale scored just 0.91 points per possession.
"We really shut them down at the three point line," Sophomore forward Jillian Ritchie said of Hillsdale shooting 0-for-6 from three in the second half. "Coach told us at halftime that no one gets hot on our floor besides us, so we just tried to lockdown their shooters."
"We were tougher, we were flat out tougher," Cameron added.
Ritchie helped set the tone for that toughness with 12 rebounds, including four on the offensive end. Undersized as a 'four,' Ritchie makes up for her 5-foot-11 frame with unrelenting box outs.
"In the second half she flat out boxed out every time, pushed her girl underneath the basket and went and got the ball. It was awesome," Cameron said. "Good for her."
While the final 13-point margin was comfortable, the victory was anything but easy.
Second leading scorer Taylor Stippel recovered from a horrendous shooting night at Findlay with a perfect 6-for-6 performance and 13 points but could only play 16 minutes for the game with early foul trouble. Leading scorer Sam Hoyt then joined Stippel on the bench after the senior point guard picked up her second foul with over eight minutes remaining in the half.
The Huskies got 16 points from their bench in the first half, however, to keep the score close before the starters closed the game after the break.
"You look at Sam and Taylor being out and you want to say that you are grateful it is a three point game with two of your top players out," Cameron said. "But that being said, we expect a lot from our bench. … offensively we were fine but defensively we needed to be better."
Junior Kelcey Traynoff, little used in her sophomore season, impressed Cameron the most of the reserves and tied for third on the team in scoring with 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting from three.
"Kelcey is a flat out shooter and she is starting to buy in and take pride in being a defensive stopper," Cameron said.
After a tense weekend, with an ugly loss to Findlay and some nerves on display Saturday, Hoyt still found a way to ease some stress with her only successful jumper of the day.
With two minutes left to play and the Huskies leading by nine, Hoyt put the game away for good when she nailed a running, left-handed three-pointer to beat the shot clock. Hoyt went 1-for-9 against Hillsdale with her right hand.
"She has actually made one of those in practice this year," Cameron said. "Of course that is the one shot that goes in."
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