Picking up the slack

MARSHALL – A season of growing pains grew even more painful over the weekend as the Southwest Minnesota State women’s basketball team lost its second-leading scorer when junior guard Bree Holleman suffered a severe dislocation of her elbow in a loss to Bemidji State, ending her year prematurely.

It’s a tough blow for the team, as Holleman is one of the few Mustangs who entered the season with experience on the squad and she provided both a 3-point threat and a steady ball handler. But instead of viewing the injury as a setback, the Mustangs are looking at it as an opportunity for others to gain valuable experience.

Freshman point guard Annessa Rosch made the most of her opportunity Tuesday. In her second game playing in place Holleman in the starting lineup, the 5-foot-3 Rosch hit four 3-pointers and scored a career-high 17 points in a 71-55 non-conference home win over the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

After averaging about 15 minutes and just under five points per game as a reserve, Rosch said she’s not taking her chance to play more minutes for granted.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” said Rosch, who also had four assists, three rebounds and two steals. “Being a freshman and being the shortest player in the conference, I’m just going to go out there and give it my all. I couldn’t do it without my team picking me up and showing me the way.”

It took some time before Rosch and the Mustangs (4-18 overall) were able to put away the Lady Hardrockers (14-9) in a rare non-conference game in the midst of SMSU’s Norther Sun Intercollegiate Conference schedule. SDSMT, a program making the transition from NAIA to Division II, hung around in the first half and trailed 33-27 at the halftime. The lead was still six six minutes into the second half before SMSU went on an 8-0 run.

Junior forward Alison Nagel started the run with a layup and Hannah Beeler and Rosch each added a 3 to push the lead to 14. SMSU led by double figures the rest of the way.

The Mustangs shared the ball and defended as well as they have all season, at least statistically. They held the Lady Hardrockers to just 29.2 percent shooting from the field, the lowest percentage by an SMSU opponent this season, and also piled up a season-high 20 assists in the win.

The combination of the two allowed the Mustangs to expand the lead and take over the game against the smaller SDSMT squad.

“I think we started to control the tempo a little more in the second half,” SMSU head coach Allison Kruger said. “Early in the first half we weren’t moving the ball very well. We were trying to create things off the dribble, and that’s not what this team needs to do. We need to create with the pass, and we did a better job with that in the second half and we really pounded it inside a little more and that allowed us to take advantage of our size and create some separation.”

The Mustangs had four players score in double figures in the game. Nagel scored 10 points and had five rebounds, guard Rebekah Rolling added 13 points, and reserve forward Ellen Degler had a steady game with 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting to go with seven rebounds and four assists.

“The post players, all around, I thought had a good game,” Kruger said. “Ellen had a great weekend for us and she needs to continue to score the ball for us. She’s so smart down low and it’s tough to stop her and I had to get on her at halftime a little bit because she was passing the ball so much and turning the ball over. If she gets the ball deep she needs to be a scoring threat because she shoots a great percentage.”

Rosch said one of the things the Mustangs miss with Holleman out is her positive attitude and energy on the court. She did her part to try to make up for that, giving SMSU a charge by knocking down 3-pointers and distributing a few flashy passes over the course of the game.

Starting alongside fellow freshman guard Mikayla Saathoff, Rosch showed her youth at times with four of her team’s 20 turnovers. Kruger said Rosch’s growing process will revolve around recognizing what’s required of her to make the right play.

“This is a great opportunity for her and that’s what she has to realize is that this is her chance to show some things and also to learn how to control the game, and that’s one thing she needs to continue to get better at and something that we talk about with her,” Kruger said. “She’s got a scoring mentality and that’s what you need out of a point guard because it can help her create opportunities for other people, too.”

SDMNT’s Katie Strandholm finished the game with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Alexis Long and Renae Waters added 12 and 10 points, respectively.

The Mustangs play the second game of a five-game homestand on Friday when they return to conference action to take on the University of Mary.