Mustangs host Beavers, Dragons in pivotal final home games

Photo by Jake McNeill Southwest Minnesota State guard Hannah Parsley (right) attempts a layup during a womens basketball game against Northern State on Jan. 27. Parsley, along with three other SMSU seniors, will be playing her final regular-season home game with the team on Saturday.

In a tight battle atop the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, the Southwest Minnesota State womens basketball team has dropped four of its last eight games to fall from second place in the conference to sixth. With the top four teams getting a first-round bye for the NSIC tournament, the Mustangs’ home games against Minot State (N.D.) and MSU Moorhead to close out the regular season become particularly consequential.

Saturday’s game could be the final home game for the Mustangs’ three seniors, Hannah Parsley, Madison Gehloff, Sam Wall and Sarah Conlon. Wall holds a program record with 77 3-pointers in a single season and her 232 career 3-pointers trail only Jenna Borchers’ 252. Borchers graduated after last season.

Even with the recent slump, SMSU has still put together a 16-10 record on the season with a 14-6 conference record. Their visitors this week, Minot and Moorhead, sit in eighth and 12th with an 11-9 and 6-14 conference record respectively.

Last weekend, the Mustangs picked up their fourth consecutive split. SMSU fell 61-51 to fourth-place St. Cloud State on Friday despite a 17-point outing from Wall with 4 of 10 shooting from 3-point range. On Saturday, SMSU returned to form with a 78-65 win over Bemidji State behind a 20-point, eight-rebound performance from Bri Stoltzman. Gehloff also had 14 points and eight boards in the win.

After averaging 13.8 points per game as a sophomore, Stoltzman has continued to improve as a scorer with 18.1 points per game this season, good for third in the conference. Beyond just pure volume, she’s been efficient with a 53.5% effective field goal percentage and her 3.3 assists per game are also good for third in the conference.

Just one spot ahead of Stoltzman in the assist column is Natalie Jens of MSU Moorhead, averaging 4.0 assists per game. The junior guard averaged 18 points, seven rebounds and 5.5 assists last weekend in the Dragons’ wins over Wayne State and Augustana, earning herself NSIC Player of the Week honors. She’s averaged 14.9 points per game over the course of the season — good for 10th in the conference — on a 39.9% effective field goal percentage.

As a group, the Dragons have been one of the best rebounding teams in the NSIC. Their 41.3 rebounds per game lead the conference and their plus-4.2 margin ranks fourth behind UMary, Northern State and Concordia-St. Paul. SMSU ranks sixth in rebounding margin at plus-1.8.

Terryn Johnson has been a standout on the glass for Moorhead, leading the conference with 2.7 offensive rebounds per game. Her eight total rebounds per game rank only behind UMary’s Lexie Schneider at 9.3. As a scorer, Johnson also contributes 10 points per game on 48.3% from the field. All of her field goal attempts have come inside the paint.

Abby Berge also ranks in the top 25 of the conference for Moorhead with 5.6 rebounds per game while Stoltzman and Gehloff lead SMSU with 6.6 and 5.3 rebounds respectively.

SMSU slayed the Dragons 74-61 when they faced off in Moorhead on Jan. 12. The win was the Mustangs’ fourth consecutive head-to-head win against Moorhead.

Wall scored a game-high 24 points on 6 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc, Parsley added a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double and Stoltzman recorded 19 points, six rebounds, six steals and four assists in the win. Jens tied Berge with a team-high 15 points for Moorehad while shooting 6 of 21 from the field.

One of the main gaps between SMSU and Moorhead is the Mustangs’ ability to take care of the ball. Moorhead’s minus-2.32 turnover margin is second-to-last in the NSIC, beating out only Minnesota Crookston’s minus-4.62 mark. SMSU, meanwhile, ranks fourth in the conference at plus-0.92. Parsley and Stoltzman rank 12th and eighth in the NSIC with 1.6 and 2.0 steals respectively while Jens leads Moorhead with 2.2 steals per game.

Before their Saturday matchup against MSU Moorhead, SMSU will host Minot State on Friday. The Mustangs have won five consecutive games against the 12th-place Beavers, most recently picking up a lopsided 80-42 win in Minot, N.D. on Jan. 13. Wall knocked down six 3-pointers for a game-high 20 points while Gehloff finished with 16 points, six rebounds and three assists in the win. Stoltzman also had eight rebounds and eight assists.

SMSU’s defense was impenetrable in the team’s last matchup. The Beavers shot 7 of 11 in the first quarter but SMSU held Minot State to 25% shooting from the field for the rest of the game. Minot State shot 0 of 11 from the field in the loss and Maya Aguilar’s team-high 7 points made her one of just three Beavers to surpass 5 points on the night.

The Beavers picked up a home win over Minnesota Duluth on Friday behind 21 points and eight rebounds from Lorelei McIver. The win snapped a four-game skid for the Beavers, though they fell again to Concordia-St. Paul, 55-41, the next day. No Beavers finished in double figures.

Minot State has struggled on both ends of the floor this season. Their 58.2 points scored per game rank 13th in the NSIC and their 66.2 points allowed rank 12th. They’ve also allowed the second-highest opponent field goal percentage in the league at 42.2%, though SMSU ranks last at 42.5%.

Sydney Gustavsson has been Minot’s leading scorer with 12.2 points per game on a 46.1% effective field goal percentage. Vilborg Jonsdottir also ranks eighth in the NSIC with 3.1 assists per game for Minot and her 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio is a conference-best.

Southwest Minnesota State likely needs to win both matchups to earn a bye to the NSIC quarterfinals at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D. on Mar. 2 and 3.

Friday’s game against Minot State will tip off at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday’s game against Minnesota State Moorhead will begin at 3:30 p.m. Live stats and video broadcasts of the games are available online at SMSUmustangs.com and a radio broadcast can be found on 105.1 FM KARL.


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