SMSU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Second half run carries Sioux Falls past Mustangs

Photo by Sam Thiel SMSU’s Sadie Stelter tries to drive past a University of Sioux Falls defender during their game on Saturday. The Mustangs fell to the Cougars 69-54.

MARSHALL – The Southwest Minnesota State University women’s basketball team had a strong start and was able to hang with the University of Sioux Falls, but a second half run by the Cougars and offensive struggles late proved to be the difference as SMSU fell 69-54 Saturday evening at the R/A Facility.

The Mustangs came out of the gates quickly at the beginning stages, going on an 8-2 run. USF would counter with a run of its own, using a 12-7 spurt to cut the deficit to three at 15-12, before a 3-pointer tied things up at 15 to end the first quarter. SMSU shot 55 percent (6 of 11) from the field in the frame with Lauren Hedlund and Abuk Akoi combining for nine points.

The Cougars would start the second quarter with a 5-0 run before a 3-pointer by Lauren Sanders gave USF a 28-16 lead with six minutes left in the first half. SMSU got a three from Meleah Reinhart, but Sioux Falls maintained at least an eight-point lead for the majority of the quarter. A triple from Sadie Stelter cut the deficit to nine before another three from Reinhart made it a seven-point game late in the half.

SMSU got an opportunity to end the first half with a little momentum and the Mustangs capitalized, as Erin Baxter connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the deficit to four at 35-31.

In the second half, it would be the Cougars who got out to a strong start, with USF going a small spurt to take a 39-33 lead. A layup from Sara Teske cut the deficit to two at 39-37 with seven minutes left before back-to-back layups by Baxter and Stelter cut it to one at 42-41 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

After a Cougars turnover, SMSU took its first lead of the second half thanks to a Caleigh Rodning layup. Both teams then went back and forth over the next several minutes, with USF holding a 46-44 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Points continued to be traded to start the fourth, but the Cougars used a 14-3 spurt in the final frame while simultaneously limiting SMSU on offense. The Mustangs hit just one shot on six attempts while the Cougars connected on five of their nine shots during the spurt to extend their lead to double digits.

A 3-pointer by Stelter cut it to eight at 60-52 with 3:35 left, but the Mustangs couldn’t get any closer down the stretch.

SMSU coach Tom Webb said they have to play at the level they had during the first quarter throughout the game, especially late in the fourth.

“We took care of the first quarter, we just didn’t take care of the fourth. It would be nice to play 40 minutes,” Webb said. “We just have to be more consistent in practice and with our shot selection.”

Stelter finished the game with 11 points while Hedlund had 10 and Rodning had eight. Rodning led in rebounds with nine while Stelter and Hedlund added seven each.

Defensively, the Mustangs were able to force 11 USF turnovers while SMSU committed 20 turnovers of its own. The Cougars capitalized on the Mustangs’ mistakes, scoring 25 points off of turnovers in the game.

SMSU (2-7) will face the University of North Dakota today in an exhibtion at 7 p.m. Stelter said their biggest takeaway will be to maintain their competitiveness and have fun during their games.

“Just being competitive throughout the entire game and just having fun,” Stelter said. “When we’re playing with teams we have way more fun than if we’re down or even up by a lot.”

USF 15 20 11 23-69

SMSU 15 16 13 10-54

SCORING: SMSU 19-56, 33.9 percent (Stelter 4-17, 0-0 11; Hedlund 3-8, 4-7 10; Rodning 2-6, 4-6 9; Reinhart 2-4, 1-2 7; Akoi 3-4, 1-2 7; Baxter 2-7, 0-0 5; Teske 2-5, 0-0 4; S. Buysse 1-3, 0-0 2).

3-POINT FGS: SMSU 6-21, 28.6 percent (Stelter 3; Reinhart 2; Baxter 1).

REBOUNDS: SMSU 44 (Rodning 9; Stelter, Hedlund 7).

ASSISTS: SMSU 10 (Rodning 4; Baxter, Stelter 2).

STEALS: SMSU 4 (Akoi 2; Reinhart, Baxter).

BLOCKS: SMSU 3 (Akoi 2; Rodning 1).