Marauders march past SMSU women

MARSHALL – It’s been hard enough for the Southwest Minnesota State University women’s basketball team to get wins in the conference this season, with a 2-14 conference record prior to Friday night’s Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference contest with the University of Mary. So when the SMSU spotted the Marauders a 16-0 lead to start the game, the Mustangs knew they were in for a long night.

SMSU was never able to recover from the early deficit and fell to the Marauders 84-63 at the R/A Facility.

“I just think that we didn’t have a very good mentality throughout the game tonight,” SMSU head coach Allison Kruger said. “There was no emotion. There was no passion. There was no excitement on the court from anybody and that’s what seems to be the key to getting this team going, and we just didn’t have that to get going. It was kind of an uphill battle all night.”

It took almost seven minutes for the Mustangs to get on the board, when freshman guard Mikayla Saathoff went end to end and converted a three-point play. From that point on, SMSU was constantly fighting to get the game into contention.

A 24-13 run following Saathoff’s 3-point play had the Mustangs within five points, but the Marauders closed out the first half on a 12-7 run to take a 41-31 lead into the locker room.

The Mustangs attacked the low post offensively on numerous occasions in the game, making small runs to get within 10 of the Marauders with center Alison Nagel scoring a team-high 14 points.

Unfortunately for SMSU, the commitment to the inside-out game was wavering, as the team elected to shoot contested 3-pointers rather than continue to score points in the paint.

“We went away from what was working for us,” Kruger said. “If something’s working, continue to go to it. We got it into the post, we were scoring, we were doing well and all of a sudden it was like we decided to start jacking 3’s. And that’s not what this team is going to be good at. We need to play inside-out basketball. We need to feed the post and let them get shots for us.”

As a result of the change in the offensive strategy, the Marauders (14-9 overall, 9-8 NSIC) were able to turn their 10-point halftime lead into a 21-point victory.

SMSU cut the Marauder lead down to seven following Nagel’s jumper with 13 minutes, 17 seconds to play, but Mary’s Ali Collins knocked down a 3 on the ensuing possession to put the Marauders back up by 10 at 56-46.

Collins finished the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while teammate Brittney Deitz scored 16 in the win.

The Mustangs (4-19, 2-15) were gashed by the dribble penetration of the Marauders all night, but took a handful of charges while working their way back into the game over the next five minutes. The charges could have been more effective had the Mustangs stayed aggressive until the end of the game, according to Kruger.

“By taking charges we kind of got ourselves going a little bit, but one of our keys to the game was capitalizing on their mistakes,” she said. “They did foul quite a bit, but we didn’t capitalize on that. We didn’t make free throws, we didn’t stay aggressive.”

SMSU’s Hope Bonlander scored on a layup with 8:24 remaining to bring the Mustangs within eight points, but the Marauders followed with an 18-5 run to close out the game and snap a three-game losing streak.

The Marauders scored over half of their points in the paint, while picking up 24 points off 14 SMSU turnovers.

“We just had too many kids that weren’t mentally in the game tonight,” Kruger said. “I don’t know where they were and I don’t know what they were doing. We had a handful that just didn’t play a very good game tonight.”

The Mustangs will look for a more unified team effort tonight as they return to the R/A Facility for another NSIC game, this time with Minot State.