Tiger girls’ basketball team grounds Eagles

MARSHALL – A fast start and a fast finish helped propel the Marshall girls’ basketball team to its third straight win and a 5-0 Southwest Conference record with a 73-33 win over Windom Area in Marshall on Thursday.

The Tigers (10-1 overall, 5-0 SWC) outscored the Eagles (5-5, 2-2) 36-10 in the second half to overcome a rough first half.

“We just stopped defending inside and that was a little bit frustrating,” said Marshall head coach Dan Westby. “I thought we came out and did a better job in the second half of not allowing that stuff inside.”

Marshall opened the game hot, jumping out to a 14-2 lead, taking advantage of a pair of 3-pointers from Hannah Bennett and Kelsey Saugstad.

“We were hitting a lot of good shots,” said Marshall’s Callie Graff. “Finding the open girls.”

Windom Area cut the lead to eight with a pair of free throws and a basket before Bennett hit her third 3 of the night.

Marshall never allowed Windom to get back to single digits in the half, but was unable to break away as the Eagles’ Gina Hauge kept getting put-backs and easy baskets to keep Windom Area in the game.

“We weren’t boxing out very well,” Graff said. “We couldn’t keep (Hauge) out of the lane and she kept getting putbacks. We bailed them out a lot.”

The Tigers were unable to get any kind of break during the late first half. With 6:53 left in the half Hauge was fouled by Bennett on the made shot. On what should have been a single shot, Hauge was given two attempts, missing both.

On the next possession the Eagles cut it back to 10, 23-13 before the Tigers pulled ahead by 16 with 1:52 left in the half on a Graff basket, taking a 37-23 lead into the half.

“We didn’t think we did a very good job defensively inside in the first half,” Westby said. “We gave them way too many free throws. They shot 11 free throws in the first half, we shot one. That’s too big of a disparity.”

Marshall started out hot in the second half, quickly building a 20-point lead, 43-23, on a Sarah Buysse basket. Sarah Andersen made it 45-23 and Kenzie Beekman gave Marshall a 26-point lead, 53-27, with 12:04 left in the game. She added two more points after a Tiger timeout before the Eagles stopped the run.

“We blocked out better in the second half and didn’t give them so many second-chance shots,” Westby said. “I thought our kids ran the court better in the second half and got rewarded a few times with some easy looks.”

Three-pointers from Buysse and Morgan Saugstad continued to build the lead, but it was a 3 by Bennett with 6:56 left in the game that gave Marshall a 35-point lead, 64-29, and a running clock.

“I think it helped that we were playing a lot better defense,” Beekman said. “So the game was easier for us.”

The Tigers were able to keep the lead high and the clock running, finishing the game with a 73-33 win.

Marshall will travel to Sioux Falls (S.D.) to face Sioux Falls Lincoln (2-2) tonight.

“They have a very good point guard. I think she had 38 against us last year as a junior,” Westby said. “They’ve got a good big kid inside, so that will be a tough matchup for us.”