SMSU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Comeback falls short for SMSU against Warriors

Photo by Sam Thiel SMSU’s Caleigh Rodning guards a Winona State University player during their game on Saturday. The Mustangs fell to the Warriors 68-66.

MARSHALL – The Southwest Minnesota State University women’s basketball team used a spirited comeback during the fourth quarter of their game against Winona State University on Saturday afternoon, but ran out of time as the Mustangs fell to the Warriors 68-66.

Trailing 55-38 entering the final frame, SMSU led an offensive charge, cutting the deficit to 12 with eight minutes left before a 3-pointer from Meleah Reinhart cut it to single digits at 57-48 with 6:30 left. Another triple from Reinhart on the next SMSU possession made it a six-point game with a little more than five minutes to go.

After a Winona State basket gave the Warriors a 59-53 lead, Reinhart continued to keep SMSU in it with her third triple of the quarter to make it 59-56 with three minutes left. The Warriors defense then made a couple of stops before getting the ball inside to the post to take a 10-point lead. A 3-pointer by Emily Buysse cut it to seven before the Mustangs made it a five-point contest with seven seconds left.

The Mustangs would get one final chance thanks to a turnover on the inbounds pass from WSU, and Sadie Stelter connected on a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game, but only three-tenths of a second remained on the game clock as the Warriors escaped with the narrow victory.

SMSU coach Tom Webb said this team is starting to find its heart, and he’s happy with their drive to get better and grow as a team.

“We’re starting to find our heart; it’s fun to coach teams that have a lot of heart and I think this group has heart,” Webb said. “They want to get better, they want to grow, they want to fight, they want to compete, and that’s fun.”

It was a back and forth battle to start, as SMSU held an early 5-2 lead. Winona State then went on a 5-0 run to take its first lead of the day before both teams settled into their respective zones. Both teams contained each other on the offensive end, as the Warriors held a 13-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Mustangs then went on a little spurt to open the second quarter, with Taylor Holicky hitting a 3-pointer before Stelter connected on a deep shot of her own to give SMSU a 17-16 lead. Winona State answered back, though, going on a 7-0 run to take a 23-17 advantage.

Another three from Stelter made it a 3-point game with 3:40 left before the two teams traded points the rest of the quarter, and WSU took a 30-26 advantage into the locker rooms.

The third quarter was all Warriors, as WSU went on an 18-0 run to start the frame and give the Warriors a 22-point lead at 48-26 halfway through the quarter. SMSU would start its comeback attempt throughout the remainder of the frame, cutting to 18 before the fourth quarter rally.

Reinhart led the way for the Mustangs with 14 points while Stelter added 13 and Erin Baxter chipped in 12. Holicky led in rebounds with 12 while Stelter led in assists with seven.

Reinhart said their key offensively during their comeback was finding the open teammate on the floor and being able to step up and hit the shot.

“Our shots just started to fall,” Reinhart said. “We passed the ball well, looked for open teammates and it was just a team effort, we weren’t selfish.”

Defensively, Webb said he thought they stayed physical with the Warriors, and guarded the perimeter well.

“I thought as a whole we were pretty physical; we got to our outs really well, which means we guarded the perimeter really well,” Webb said. “The biggest thing that hurt us in the first half was that we couldn’t hit a shot. We got a ton of open looks, we just couldn’t make one. We’ll get there, but if those shots go, it’s a different game.”

SMSU (2-4) will hit the road to face the University of Minnesota Duluth on Friday at 6 p.m. before squaring off with St. Cloud State University next Saturday. Webb said their biggest takeaway is to continue to grow and fight every day.

“We’ve just got to keep growing every day, keep fighting and competing and we’ll be fine,” Webb said.

WSU 13 17 25 13-68

SMSU 9 17 12 28-66

SCORING: SMSU 22-61, 36.1 percent (Reinhart 5-9, 0-0 14; Stelter 3-12, 4-4 13; Baxter 5-11, 0-0 12; Rodning 2-4, 5-5 9).

3-POINT FGS: SMSU 11-30, 36.7 percent (Reinhart 4; Stelter 3; Baxter 2).

REBOUNDS: SMSU 41 (Holicky 12; Rodning 8; Stelter, S. Buysse 4).

ASSISTS: SMSU 17 (Stelter 7).

STEALS: SMSU 7 (Reinhart, Baxter 2).

BLOCKS: SMSU 1 (Holicky).