NCAA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Southwest Minnesota State wins second straight

BELMONT, Calif. – Southwest Minnesota State shot 66 percent in the first half to open a 10-point halftime lead and cruised to an 80-53 victory over Notre Dame de Namur on Friday.

SMSU improves to 2-0 for the first time since 2008-09, while Notre Dame de Namur falls to 1-2.

Rebekah Rolling led the Mustangs with 15 points on 7 of 12 shooting, while Bree Holleman added 12 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Alison Nagel added 12 points for the Mustangs with teammate Hope Bonlander coming off the bench to score 10 points and grab seven rebounds.

SMSU finished the night shooting 52 percent (33 of 64) from the field and held a 40-34 rebound advantage. The Mustangs finished the game with 22 assists and committed just eight turnovers.

“We did shoot a good percentage and it was because we had quality shots,” Southwest Minnesota State head coach Alison Kruger said. “We moved well off the ball, which allowed us to get easy layups and short mid-range jumpers.”

Notre Dame de Namur shot 36 percent (20 of 56) in the contest and committed 15 turnovers.

SMSU made just 1 of 7 shots from 3-point range in the second half, but was 18 of 22 on two-point field goal attempts and finished the game with a 42-24 advantage in points in the paint.

The Mustangs trailed 21-20 with 5 minutes, 34 seconds left in the first half, but a 10-0 run, including six points by Rolling gave SMSU a 30-21 lead. The lead would grow to 11 points later in the half before SMSU settled with a 38-28 halftime advantage.

“Early-on in the first half, we were settling for shots and not moving the ball very well,” Kruger said. “We were not playing an inside-outside type of game. During a timeout, we talked about packing Notre Dame’s defense and making them work a lot harder. We worked a few different sets to get the ball inside, and that jumpstarted our run.”

Holleman started the second half with a bang scoring the first six points to grow the advantage to 44-28 and the lead never dipped below double digits as SMSU cruised to the victory.

“I think one of the key stats for us was that we had 22 assists as a team,” Kruger said. “By moving the ball and setting each other up, we played very unselfish basketball.”

Southwest Minnesota State continues play today, taking on Cal State-Monterey Bay (1-0) at 4 p.m. CST in Belmont, Calif. The Otters finished 20-9 last season and advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division II West Region Tournament.