Upper Iowa outmuscles SMSU women in 71-58 win

MARSHALL – Less than three weeks after receiving a humbling defeat at the hands of the Upper Iowa University women’s basketball team, the Southwest Minnesota State University Mustangs were granted a chance at retribution with the Peacocks visiting the R/A Facility on Friday night.

Upper Iowa routed the Mustangs 80-59 in Fayette, Iowa on Jan. 5, but for the first 20 minutes, at least, it looked as if SMSU was going to even the score for the season with the Peacocks.

Annessa Rosch scored for the Mustangs on a putback just before the buzzer signaled halftime, sending SMSU to the locker room trailing by only one. SMSU had trailed by as many as 11 points with just four minutes, 38 seconds before the break, but a 10-0 run saw Upper Iowa holding a 27-26 lead.

That is where the good news ended for the Mustangs.

After halftime, the Peacocks took control of the glass and used a massive rebounding disparity towards a 71-48 victory.

The two teams each had racked up 20 rebounds apiece during the first half, but the second half saw Upper Iowa out-rebound SMSU 29-9. From those extra 20 rebounds, the Peacocks scored 13 second-chance points in the second half, while turning 12 points in the paint into 40.

“Rebounding is all about heart, it’s about wanting to get the rebound more than the other person does,” SMSU head coach Allison Kruger said. “We weren’t blocking people off, but we weren’t jumping for rebounds, I don’t know. We just didn’t rebound.”

Following a 14-6 run for Upper Iowa to start the second half, SMSU tried to reinstitute its full court press, which had helped spark the Mustangs’ 10-0 run at the end of the first half.

The effort was not the same, nor were the results as Upper Iowa easily broke the press and started a 10-4 run to take a 50-37 lead with 11:00 on the clock.

“We let up in the second half in our press,” Kruger said. “Kids were missing assignments in terms of who they’re supposed to cover in our press. We got tentative. In the first half, when we were really getting after our press, we were playing with a mentality that ‘let’s create turnovers.’ Then in the second half, we were playing not to get beat.”

The two teams were even over the final 11 minutes of the game, after playing effectively equal in the opening 20. During those opening nine minutes of the second half; turnovers, a lack of rebounding and ineffective effort cost the Mustangs a shot at just their second conference win of the season.

“I felt like our turnovers, too, were on us,” Kruger said. “It wasn’t the other team pressing us. Stepping out of bounds, just not catching the ball with two hands, those are mental focus things and we just need to come more mentally prepared night in and night out.”

SMSU (2-16 overall, 1-12 NSIC) was led on the floor by three players in double figures scoring. Alison Nagel had a team-high 16 points, while Bree Holleman added 12. Freshman guard Mikayla Saathoff chipped in with 10 points.

The Mustang trio was out-performed, however, by a duo with double-doubles for Upper Iowa. Whitney Kieffer had a game-high 28 points to go along with her 17 rebounds, while Carly Pagel poured in 14 points and pulled down 16 boards.

SMSU, in desperate need of a confidence boost, is back on the court today as it hosts Winona State at 5 p.m.

“We need a game, we need to win a game, we have to find a way to win a game,” Kruger said. “We didn’t want to focus on winning, we didn’t want to focus on wins and losses this year, but the bottom line is we have to. We have to find a way to do it. You see how our team is. We’re beat up, we’re down, we’re deflated. We need something right now, it’s hard on everybody.”