Tech women continue strong start with win over UMD

HOUGHTON — Playing the second half of back-to-back games, Michigan Tech women’s’ basketball finished up a very successful early-season, non-conference run by beating the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon at the Student Development Complex Wood Gym, 61-46. The Huskies’ improved their record to 6-1 this season and held their second straight opponent under 50 points, after also defending well against St. Cloud State (Minnesota), on Friday.

Duluth is also a good team – coming into Saturday’s road tilt at 4-1 – but Tech overcame a small deficit early to take control and never looked back, cruising to the victory.

Three Huskies scored in double figures, paced by senior Ellie Mackay’s 17 points. Sophomore Isabella Lenz added 14, while junior Alex Rondorf contributed 12.

“Alex and Ellie are so great as leaders for us,” praised Tech coach Sam Clayton. “Not only do they get it down the floor, (but) they’re also just great at bringing everybody along with them and making sure everybody’s on the same page.

“In games, obviously they’re going to hit big shots. … (Opponents) have to play them so tight. … Just having a couple phenomenal shooters and leaders like that helps our program so much.”

Tech did have decent offensive output, but the game was really won on the defensive end with Tech holding UMD to only 33.3% shooting overall and a mere 18.8% 3-point percentage. Tech had eight steals and outrebounded the Bulldogs 43-33 also. The Huskies didn’t shoot great at 41.3% from the field and 31.8% from long-range, but it was enough for the win with that solid defensive efficiency.

Tech focused on shutting down Bulldog senior Brooke Olson, and did well, holding the 6-2 forward to only four points on 2-15 shooting.

UMD did get off to a good start with a 10-2 lead at about the midpoint of the first quarter. But Tech got on track quickly and took their first lead with about a minute left in the period. By the first horn, the Huskies were up 15-10 and then Lenz got hot in the second quarter, scoring eight of her points in that frame. Coupled with some tenacious team defense, headlined by Tech junior Katelyn Meister, MTU forged ahead to a 29-22 halftime lead.

“Bella is such a good player,” Clayton said of Lenz. “Honestly, it’s crazy that we get to bring her off the bench and she’s such a good player.

“Every game, she creates for us and she can do it off the dribble. She can do it off screens. She can also create for other people. She also had three assists and six rebounds. … She’s just super tough to guard.”

“We usually put (Meister) on the best (opposing) player because she can guard any position,” Clayton also said post-game. “We can put her on the best post (player). We can put her on the best guard. She’s got that length where she can affect shots.”

Coming out of the break, the Black-and-Gold kept up the pressure at both ends of the floor and with 5:56 left in the third quarter, the Tech margin had grown to 15 points. From there the Huskies held UMD at arm’s length and the Bulldogs never cut the lead to closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

UMD tried to force the issue halfway through the fourth quarter with suddenly physical play in a game that had been very clean up to that point, but Tech’s poise and composure won out in not letting those antics affect the outcome.

Tech had quite a deep rotation Saturday with 10 players seeing the floor and nine of those logging at least nine minutes of play. That depth is a distinct advantage for Clayton, especially when playing back-to-back days. “We get production from everybody that (plays),” she said. “We have depth to be able to rest some players and stay fresh.”

Tech won all four quarters en route to the win.

The Huskies now go on the road this week to start Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play at Wisconsin-Parkside on Thursday, followed by a visit to Purdue Northwest on Saturday.

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