MARSHALL – Southwest Minnesota State used a big second half to pull away from Bemidji State on Friday night en route to a 76-64 win.

The Mustangs, normally a driving team, went 4 of 8 from behind the arc in the second half and that was one of the factors that helped the Mustangs pull away.

Created solid defense also played an important part.

“With about 10 minutes left, we finally dedicated to our defensive philosophy,” SMSU coach Alison Kruger said. “We finally grasped the concept as a whole and that allowed us to get going offensively. It was a matter of our defense kind of took over towards the end.”

Sophomore Mikayla Saathoff and Alison Nagel shared the bulk of the points, contributing 14 points each. Saathoff added 13 assists – only one shy of the SMSU single-game assists record. Annessa Rosch and Rebekah Rolling each added 11 points.

As for the record, Saathoff didn’t know she was even close until the game had already ended.

Even though she came close to the record, chasing it again won’t change her philosophy much.

“I had no idea,” Saathoff said, but I’m just going to keep playing. My teammates are doing a great job of finishing off shots.”

Saathoff’s 13 assists were more than Bemidji State recorded as a team. The Beavers finished with 12.

The Mustangs spread the rebounds around as Saathoff also finished as the leading rebounder with six. Bree Holleman finished with five, and the Mustangs had Rebekah Rolling, Hannah Beeler, Rosch, Emilee Duskee and Nagel each finish with four rebounds.

Having so many helping hands on the boards was a pleasing sight to Kruger.

“That’s awesome,” Kruger said. “That’s what you want. You look at the rebounds and the points – they were completely balanced. That’s what makes it so tough to defend, the defense can’t key on one kid. We just had a well-rounded game on offense.”

Morgan Lee was the leading scorer for the Beavers with 23 points while Jessie Althoff had 19 points. Other than Lee, Katie Warmack was a big point of emphasis for the Mustangs, defensively, as she is Bemidji’s best post player.

SMSU held her to five points on 2 of 7 shooting.

“I think we did a great job of squaring up and face-guarding her in the second half to limit her opportunities,” Kruger said. “We outworked the big kid down low and that’s what we needed to do.”

The team’s went back and forth the entire way until the 7:20 mark in the second half when the Mustangs went on a 13-3 run to put the game on ice.

“When they needed a shot, they made it,” Bemidji State coach Mike Curfman said. “We missed ours when we had our opportunities. I thought both teams played hard and played aggressive. They made a few more plays than we did.”

In its next contest, SMSU (4-15, 2-13 NSIC) will host Minnesota-Crookston at 5 p.m. today.


BEMIDJI STATE (8-11 OVERALL, 4-11 NSIC NORTH): Hanna Zerr 1 0-0 2, Katie Miller 1 0-0 2, Morgan Lee 7 7-10 23, Tatum Sheley 1 0-0 2, Emily Reichert 0 0-0 0, Aimee Pelzer 4 0-1 11, Kate Warmack 2 1-2 5, Jessie Althoff 6 6-6 19, Allison Cordes 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 22-60 (37%) 14-19 (78%) 64.

SOUTHWEST MINNESOTA STATE (3-15 OVERALL, 1-13 NSIC SOUTH): Brianna Mikayla Saathoff 5 2-2 14, Bree Holleman 3 2-4 8, Jessie Watts 0 0-0 0, Rebekah Rolling 5 0-0 11, Ellen Degler 2 3-4 7, Hannah Beeler 3 1-2 7, Annessa Rosch 4 2-2 11, Emilee Duske 2 0-0 4, Alison Nagel 6 0-0 14. TOTALS: 30-62 (48%) 10-14 (71%) 76.

HALFTIME: SMSU 33, BSU 34. 3-POINT FIELD GOALS: Bemidji State 6-12 (50%); Southwest Minnesota State 6-12 (50%). REBOUNDS: Bemidji State 33 (Warmack 11); Southwest Minnesota State 41 (Saathoff 6). TOTAL FOULS (FOULED OUT): Bemidji State 17 (None); Southwest Minnesota State 17 (None). TECHNICAL FOULS: None. ASSISTS: Bemidji State 12 (Althoff 4); Southwest Minnesota State 23 (Saathoff 13). STEALS: Bemidji State 8 (Pelzer 5); Southwest Minnesota State 6 (Beeler 2, Degler 2). BLOCKED SHOTS: Bemidji State 6 (Warmack 5); Southwest Minnesota State 4 (Beeler 2, Degler 2). TURNOVERS: Bemidji State 12; Southwest Minnesota State 12.