The No. 11-ranked Minnesota State Women’s Basketball team heads to the championship game of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament as they breezed past their first two opponents, pushing their win streak to 11 games.
The Mavericks earned the No. 1 seed in tournament play giving them a first-round bye as they finished with the best record in the NSIC South Division.
After resting up and going straight into the second round, they played the University of Mary Saturday. MSU ended UMary’s season after beating them 81-66. This win was led by Freshman, Natalie Bremer, who recorded her career-high 30 points. This was done with pure efficiency as she shot 76.4 percent from the field with a mere 23 minutes played.
The game was neck and neck throughout the first two quarters. The Mavs distributed the ball throughout their roster as the first quarter ended with Junior Joey Batt leading the team with four points and three assists with a score of 21-21.
The 6:57 mark of the second quarter was the last time the Marauders had an advantage for the rest of the game. The Mavs tied the ball game 31-31 and then went on a 7-4 run ending the half at 38-35.
The momentum going into the locker room translated into the rest of the game as MSU took over. Going into the third quarter, Sophomore, Destinee Bursch, single-handedly brought the Mavs a 9-2 run as she scored all nine points. This brought the first double-digit lead of the game of 47-37 which held for the rest of the quarter.
The Mavericks were able to hold a dominant lead throughout the remainder of the game. The Marauders cut the lead down to single digits once, bringing the score to 70-64 with 3:36 left in the game. MSU responded quickly and went on a 9-0 run which finished off the game.
In the third round, MSU tallied 100 points for the first time against an NSIC team this season in their win over Southwest Minnesota State University Monday.
The win came from two things, switching up their hard 1-3-1 zone defense and the depth of MSU’s roster. MSU revolved their defense around SMSU’s ability to hit the three as they lead the NSIC in threes per game. Mankato’s offense also saw six out of their ten players that played hit double digits. Their depth also provided them to stay fresh throughout the game and not tire out.
“Depth is who we are, we believe any player can bring a punch off the bench,” said head coach Emilee Thiesse.
The Mavs started the game with a dominant run as they found themselves with a 22-12 lead with 2:54 remaining in the quarter. Regardless of this lead, it was the Mustangs who finished the quarter on top. SMSU’s Sam Wall led their team on an 11-0 run to end the first 23-22. During this run, she hit her 74th three-pointer of the year which set an SMSU school record.
MSU found a lead in the second quarter and kept it as they went on a 12-6 run in the first five minutes and ended the half up 48-43.
Wall led the Mustangs with 17 points which came from five threes. Thiesse’s game plan for the Mavs going into the half was to shut her down.
“We can’t lose her, we have to make them finish on two-pointers and not allow open threes.”
The score tightened in the third quarter as SMSU found the lead once again. They went and outscored the Mavs 10-4 to make the score 53-52. SMSU’s lead was shot down instantly as MSU went on a 19-10 stretch, Bremer scored seven of those points.
MSU had a lead of 71-63 at the start of the fourth and they continued their reign till the end. They tired out SMSU’s offense through relentless defense. This resulted in 29 points on offense in the last quarter of regulation which was done with 66.7 percent efficiency.
The Mavericks shut down Wall’s scoring and held her to four points in the second half. The Mavericks’ focus on hard defense ultimately led to the demise of the Mustangs and the birth of a conference championship appearance for the Mavericks.
MSU now has their eyes set on the conference championship game versus Minnesota Duluth Tuesday. UMD is the north division No.1 seed and has the best record in the NSIC of 26-3. The Bulldogs handed MSU their second loss of the season as the game ended 78-75.
“In that game, we dug ourselves into a hole that was too late to dig ourselves out of,” said Batt. “But our resilience is what punches teams in the gut. So knowing that we can use it as motivation for what happened last time.”
If the Mavs find a win it will be their first time ever being crowned conference champions. It will also secure them a spot in the NCAA Division II tournament.
Write to Luke Jackson at Luke.Jackson@mnsu.edu
Header photo: MSU Women’s Basketball team climbs the NSIC tournament ladder after defeating SMSU 100-82 Monday, Feb. 27. The Mavericks compete today at 4 p.m. for the NSIC Championship title against Minnesota Duluth. (Dylan Engel)