PAINESVILLE, Ohio – Lake Erie came within a Wildcats' whisker of upending Northern Michigan in a game decided in the final 30 seconds on Saturday. The Storm battled back from a 19-point deficit to eventually lose, 55-53.
Northern Michigan (10-2, 7-1 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) went just 15-of-26 (57.7 percent) at the free-throw line. That, and a big defensive effort by the Storm, is what fueled the late-game comeback for the Green & White.
Lake Erie (6-8, 1-7) committed just 12 turnovers while forcing 25.
"We really closed out the game well," said Lake Erie Head Coach Bob Booher. "But it's so hard to win when you get in a 15-0 hole like the beginning of the game or a near-20-point hole early in the second half. But I really like the defensive effort I saw out there today. If we can mix in a better performance on knocking down makeable shots, we will win these kinds of games."
The makeable shots that didn't fall resulted in LEC shooting 27.4 percent (17-of-62) from the field. The Storm's 62 attempts – a figure buoyed by the big plus in turnover margin – mark Lake Erie's most in a single game since Dec. 1.
The Wildcats blitzed the Storm with a 15-0 run at the outset of the contest. Four different NMU starters scored during that spurt, which lasted four minutes-and-20 seconds.
Sophomore Jodie Jindra stopped the bleeding for Lake Erie with a pair of free throws at 15:24. LEC managed to cut the Wildcat lead to nine by the 10:42-mark.
NMU worked its lead back to 13 in short order. The Storm three times got as close as eight points, but they endured long dry spells devoid of field goals. Northern Michigan took advantage of the misfires and went into halftime outshooting the Storm, 39 percent to 16 percent, and outscoring LEC, 33-22.
The Wildcats ran their lead to 19 points over the early minutes of the second half. Back-to-back Daija Jones lay-ups were part of a stretch that cut the Northern Michigan lead to 46-33 by the 13:13-mark.
Improved shooting and a ball-hawking defense were part of a surge that brought the home five within five (49-44) by the five-minute mark. When Sami Narducci threaded a pass down low for a Kaeding Skelton bucket, the Storm found themselves with four. A big three-ball from NMU's Sarah Miller at 3:19 put the Wildcats up, 54-46. A Sami Narducci trey was the answer by the Storm.
Senior forward Chrissy Delaney paced the LEC defense by blocking a career-best four shots in the game. Several of those were in key moments late in the game when NMU's lead had been cut to a couple of scores. A pair of clutch Delaney free throws and a Jones bucket in the lane brought Lake Erie within one (54-53) as the game moved into its final 40 seconds.
With 15 seconds remaining, Northern Michigan missed a pair of free throws but then come away with a key offensive rebound. NMU's Abbey DeBruin then connected on 1-of-2 from the line to run the Wildcats lead to 55-53.
Lake Erie misfired on its final possession, and Northern Michigan escaped with a two-point victory.
Miller was Northern Michigan's top scorer – she scored 13 points on the strength of four 3-pointers. NMU went 8-of-20 (40 percent) from distance for the game. DeBruin finished with 10 points and 11 boards. The Wildcats out-rebounded the Storm, 46-37.
Jodie Jindra finished as Lake Erie's top scorer on the afternoon. Jindra scored 10 points. Kaeding Skelton added eight and Sami Narducci added seven.
The Storm-Wildcats affair closed out the GLIAC North Division portion of LEC's schedule. The Green & White will face all South Division foes from this point forward. That stretch will begin on Thursday when Lake Erie hosts Malone (6 pm. tip-off).
Notes: Lake Erie has now lost four straight home games. LEC is 1-4 on its home hardwood this season. … The Wildcats and Storm have now met four times. NMU is 4-0 in those contests. … Northern Michigan headed into this week ranked third in the GLIAC in scoring (77.2 points per game) and second in defense (66.8). Only Lake Erie (63.8) had yielded fewer points per game. … The Storm recorded 10 blocked shots against the Wildcats. That marks the team's most this season. Delaney's four mark the most by a Storm player this season. … Lake Erie went 16-of-19 (84.2 percent) at the foul line. LEC is 36-of-42 (85.7 percent) over its last two games.
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