SMSU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: SMSU takes out Upper Iowa as Hedlund reaches milestone

Photo by Sam Thiel SMSU’s Lauren Hedlund looks to score against Upper Iowa University during their game on Friday. The Mustangs won 75-55 as Hedlund reached 1,000 points for her career.

MARSHALL – The Southwest Minnesota State University women’s basketball team headed into conference play on Friday afternoon looking to make a statement against an Upper Iowa University team looking to snap a three-game losing streak. The Mustangs made a loud opening statement, building a double-digit lead and not looking back as SMSU earned a convincing 75-55 victory at the R/A Facility.

SMSU coach Tom Webb was pleased with his team’s effort and energy throughout the afternoon and felt they were aggressive on offense.

I think we were selfless. I think we had good energy and we understood how to swing the basketball and be aggressive,” Webb said. “We made big shots, especially the younger kids; it was really exciting.”

Coming into the contest, the Mustangs were averaging 11 points per game in the opening quarter and looked to get out to a fast start. It would be Upper Iowa instead who got out of the gates quickly, as the Peacocks opened an 8-2 advantage in the opening minutes.

SMSU hung tough, however, inching its way back until a 3-pointer by Emily Buysse gave the Mustangs their first lead of the afternoon at 9-8 with 5:21 left in the quarter.

The SMSU defense then began to kick into second gear, as the Mustangs held the Peacocks scoreless for two-plus minutes and forced multiple turnovers. The two teams would then trade points back and forth throughout the next few possessions until a 3-pointer by Sadie Stelter gave SMSU a 20-12 lead, and the Mustangs would lead 20-15 at the end of one.

In the second quarter, the Peacocks managed to cut the deficit to two points, 23-21, but a Sarah Buysse three put the Mustangs up five at 26-21 with five minutes remaining in the half.

SMSU continued to make plays on the offensive end, increasing its lead to double digits with 3:05 left before a triple by Erin Baxter gave the Mustangs their biggest lead at 40-26 at the halftime break.

In the third quarter, the Mustangs’ defensive pressure from their guards continued to cause havoc for Upper Iowa as SMSU got key steals and turnovers that led to transition baskets. The Peacocks’ mistakes helped give the Mustangs a 47-28 lead with 8:32 left in the quarter before SMSU extended it to 51-35 with a little over four minutes left in the frame.

UIU wouldn’t go away, though, using a small 6-0 spurt of its own to cut the deficit to 10, but the Mustangs got a key 3-pointer from Sara Teske to stop the bleeding. SMSU would maintain a double-digit advantage the remainder of the quarter and led 57-41 at the end of three.

The Mustangs’ offense continued to stay hot at the right moments in the fourth, with SMSU building a 70-52 lead with four minutes remaining.

Another storyline heading into the game was senior Lauren Hedlund, who entered just six points shy of becoming the 19th member of the 1,000 career point club. With under a minute left in the game, the forward got the ball, made a post move and put a short shot into the basket to give her seven points on the game and eclipse the mark.

Hedlund said it was nice to finally get to that mark and join that elite company, but it was more exciting to get the win.

“First of all I’m just excited that we had a good lead and we wanted to get our first conference win, which is the most exciting,” Hedlund said. “On top of that it’s just nice be up with those big players that are up there.”

Caleigh Rodning led the way for the Mustangs with 18 points while Erin Baxter added 11 and Sadie Stelter and Sarah Buysse each had nine. Rodning led in rebounds with 11 while Taylor Holicky had 10 and Hedlund had six.

Hedlund said their key on the offensive end was their ability to shoot from long distance as well as staying fresh and making key rotations.

“Our threes were falling and we were able to get it into the post a little bit,” Hedlund said. “We were trying to outwork them and they had a lot of girls playing a lot of minutes and we had people rotating in and stayed pretty fresh.”

Defensively, the Mustangs forced 14 Upper Iowa turnovers, scoring 17 points off those mistakes. Webb said the key on defense was their pressure from the guards.

“Our press was really good. We changed it up and changed the pressure coverage up which was good,” Webb said. “The other thing is that we only turned it over nine times which is exactly what we need to do.”

SMSU (2-3) will look to continue its momentum today against Winona State University at 5 p.m.