SMSU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Strong second half helps SMSU defeat Bemidji State University 72-51 for third consecutive win

Photo by Emily Daniels SMSU’s Meleah Reinhart drives past a Bemidji State University defender during their “Hawaiian Night” game on Saturday. The Mustangs defeated BSU 72-51.

MARSHALL – While the fans took a trip to Hawaii on Saturday night, the Southwest Minnesota State University women’s basketball team took one to another win on the weekend, as the Mustangs defeated Bemidji State University 72-51.

SMSU had good looks early on but there were a few minor adjustments that coach Tom Webb saw that could be changed for the remainder of the season.

“Early we looked a little tight. You miss some shots and you have to press a little bit,” said Webb. “Going into halftime we were up by three and just said to relax, shots are going to go, and we had good looks. Early we didn’t go hard very well so we had to go to zone a little bit.”

Coming off a victory over University of Minnesota-Crookston Friday night, the Mustangs were ready to bring that intensity and excitement to their final home game of the weekend against the Beavers. Right from the start, both teams found themselves fighting for an early lead, as Meleah Reinhart got things going for the Mustangs and helped SMSU take a slim 14-12 advantage.

One thing that helped keep the Mustangs in the game was their ability to rebound. SMSU’s aggressiveness underneath the basket kept Bemidji State from second-chance points and extra possessions, but the Beavers continued to stay within striking distance as the Mustangs held a 21-18 lead going into the second quarter.

The Mustangs would get out to good start to the second frame, taking a 28-20 lead with 5:06 left in the first half thanks to a layup from Erin Baxter, jumper from Caleigh Rodning and a 3-pointer from Jenna Borchers. Bemidji State fought right back, however, going on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to just one with 1:12 to go, but a Sara Teske layup to close the first half gave SMSU another three-point lead at the break at 30-27.

Looking to gain some momentum, the Mustangs raced out of the gates to start the second half, as Borchers kicked it off with a 3-pointer before Rodning continued her success under the basket to help SMSU take its first double-digit lead of the day at 40-29 lead with 6:39 left in the third.

The Mustangs continued to hold their own as the time ran down on the clock, with smart shots and passes that continued to help their success and grow their lead to 49-35. With just 10 seconds remaining on the clock in the third quarter, Erin Baxter saw an opportunity and connected on a 3-pointer to give SMSU a 54-39 lead going into the final 10 minutes of play.

The strong rebounding for SMSU didn’t stop after the first half, and ended up being another factor in the Mustangs’ success. Good ball movement led to a 3-pointer from Borchers before Rodning got a 3-point play followed by another layup to push SMSU’s lead to 64-46 with 7:17 to go. SMSU would maintain at least an 18-point advantage the rest of the way, ultimately coming away with the 72-51 victory for their third straight win.

Reinhart led the Mustangs with 18 points while Rodning added 16, Baxter had 13 and Borchers had 11. Reinhart led in rebounds with seven while Stelter, Rodning and Teske all had six. Rodning also led in assists with six while Stelter chipped in four more. The Mustangs shot 11 of 14 at the free-throw line and 26 of 59 for total field goal attempts.

The Mustangs will be back in action on the road as they take on the Minnesota State University Moorhead Dragons on Friday and the Northern State University Wolves on Saturday. SMSU now with a record overall of 11-10 and 8-8 in the NSIC.

Going into the final stretch of the season SMSU has been owning the court and winning games and Webb sees the team starting to figure out what they’re capable of and that’s going to help them continue the success for the rest of the season.

“We’ve won five of our last seven games so we should be upbeat and ready to go down the stretch and continue to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Webb. “We’re starting to understand who we are and understand some of the things we can do. Keep getting better every day and we’ll be in good shape.”