SMSU women beat Sioux Falls for first NSIC victory of season

Shooting 55 percent in the second half, the Southwest Minnesota State women’s basketball team broke free from Sioux Falls after being tied at halftime and earned a 66-52 win Tuesday in Sioux Falls, S.D., snapping a 10-game losing streak and giving the Mustangs their first Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference victory of the season.

SMSU (2-13 overall, 1-9 NSIC) held a 42-31 edge on the boards and turned the ball over a season-low 11 times. Freshman guard Mikayla Saathoff had a big hand in helping the Mustangs grab an edge on the glass, hauling in a career-high 11 rebounds.

Forward Alison Nagel and guard Bree Holleman each led the Mustangs with 15 points, and guard/forward Hope Bonlander gave SMSU a spark off the bench with 12 points.

“Offensively everybody was on the same page, which was nice to see,” SMSU head coach Allison Kruger said. “We focused on being basketball players and making plays. We can run sets for you, but we can’t make the reads for you on the court. We got a lot of great opportunities by just reading the defense and making plays.

“And we made shots tonight. I give our kids credit, Bree and Alison both had a good game, but the key for me was Hope Bonlander had a phenomenal game on both ends of the court. That was nice to see.”

Sioux Falls (8-6, 5-5) shot just 32 percent from the field and had just one player score more than seven points.

SMSU started the game on a 10-2 run, but shot just 29 percent in the first half and went into the locker room tied at 25.

Struggling to open halves in previous games, the Mustangs came out hot to open the second half Saturday. SMSU went on a 16-6 run coming out of the break and took a 41-31 lead on a 3-pointer by Rolling.

SMSU later put together a 10-0 run to push the lead to 63-43 with 4 minutes, 50 seconds left in the game after Nagel buried a jumper.

Chrissy Strassburg was the only USF player to crack double figures in scoring, putting up 10 points to go with her five assists.

SMSU’s win snapped a 14-game road losing streak that dated back to Jan. 20, 2012. It was also the Mustangs’ first win over a Division II opponent this season.

The Mustangs will try to build on their momentum this weekend, hitting the road to play Northern State on Friday before taking on Minnesota State-Moorhead Saturday.

“Hopefully it gives us a little confidence,” Kruger said. “We just have to stay true to who we are, and that’s just a team that has to compete night in and night out. We have to come focused. We are going to get them some rest and give our best effort out on the court every night.”