Vikings catch fire in win over Mustang women

MARSHALL – Augustana College made good on its first five 3-point attempts in a span of six minutes, 22 seconds to start Saturday’s game against Southwest Minnesota State before Mustang head women’s basketball coach Allison Kruger called a timeout to try to calm her players and cool off the Vikings, her team down 21-10. But the 30-second timeout only briefly delayed the deluge.

The 23rd-ranked Vikings knocked down 11 more 3s in the game, setting an R/A Facility record with 16 made 3-pointers in a 92-60 victory in the Mustangs’ Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference home finale.

Seven different Augustana players hit a shot from downtown as the team made on 48.5 percent (16 of 33) of its 3-point shots. Cami Koehn came off the bench to connect on four of them, finishing with 13 points. Guard Shaunteva Ashley and post player Alex Feeney each hit three shots from beyond the arc, finishing with 16 and 15 points, respectively.

Once the Vikings (19-5 overall, 15-5 NSIC) got hot, there was nothing SMSU could do to cool them down.

“What do you do when a team is hot? We gave them some early looks, which may have got them comfortable, and we were slow on some rotations, but you have to give Augie credit,” Kruger said. “I mean, it’s not just knocking down shots, it’s knocking down deep 3s.

“They were hot tonight and we did what we could. We could have made a few different adjustments, but I did think we made some improvements tonight, despite what the score says.”

Junior forward Alison Nagel’s offensive output was one of the positives the Mustangs (4-22, 2-18) could draw from Saturday’s game. She finished with 21 points and six rebounds, hitting two 3-point shots of her own and connecting on seven of 14 shots from the field. Freshman guard Annessa Rosch came off the bench to hit three 3-pointers and score 12 points, while junior Rebekah Rolling added 10 points and four assists for the Mustangs.

A 3-pointer from Augustana’s Lydia Nelson gave the Vikings their largest lead of the first half at 32-14 with just over eight minutes left. Augustana made eight of its 3s in the first half, with Feeney, a 6-foot center, making all three of her attempts.

Adding to the Mustangs’ woes were turnover issues. SMSU committed 14 of its 23 total turnovers in the first half. Mikayla Saathoff struggled with Augustana’s ball pressure and had five turnovers in the half, while Nagel had travelling issues and finished the game with seven turnovers.

“Some it was their pressure, some of it was us not taking care of the ball like we should and valuing the basketball,” Kruger said. “When a team pressures you, that’s what happens sometimes, you travel or you turn the ball over. We’re not very deep right now and we’re trying as hard as we can, we’re doing the best that we can, but against Augie, a top-rated team, it’s tough to do.”

SMSU battled back to end the first half and cut the lead to 11 when Ellen Degler made a layup with 15 seconds left. Rolling got the lead to single digits with another layup to start the second half, but then SMSU started to struggle down low against Feeney, who finished with five blocks, and Augustana started draining more 3s to put the game out of reach.

Augustana freshman Riley Nordgaard, a Canby graduate, scored eight points, had three rebounds, tallied two steals and doled out two assists Saturday. The three-time Independent All-Area player of the year played 22 minutes off the bench while making her return to the R/A Facility, where she had played several games in the Section 3A tournament with the Lancers. She had two sections of fans from Canby cheering her on whenever she took the court against the Mustangs.

Nordgaard has played in all 24 of Augustana’s games this year, averaging 17.0 minutes and 6.4 points per game. Her reserve role is different than what she was used to in Canby, but she said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“In college ball, obviously everyone can score and rebound and pass and plays hard,” Nordgaard said. “I’m still searching for where I fit into the puzzle, but I think I can come off the bench and contribute a lot of good minutes there, whether it’s through hustle plays and just trying to get after it or if I can get to the rim and put the ball in. But I’m just trying to keep my teammates up and keep getting W’s.

“It’s a different game, it’s definitely a different game, but the challenge is refreshing.”

SMSU’s players are also working to distinguish their roles. After Saturday’s lopsided loss against a nationally-ranked opponent, Kruger said Nagel showed some encouraging qualities while battling to the end.

“She had a good game tonight, and not only from a statistical standpoint, but she stepped up as a leader tonight,” Kruger said. “She got her team into huddles and was really communicating on the floor, and that’s something we talked about before the game was about everybody talking and making adjustments during the game. I thought she was a great leader for us tonight. That’s something we knew she had in her, we just had to get it out of her and hopefully she can continue making progress in that role.”

SMSU closes out its 2012-13 regular season on the road next weekend, facing Concordia St. Paul Friday and Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday.