The Minnesota State Women’s Basketball team could not make the comeback they needed in the conference championship game against the University of Minnesota Duluth, snapping their 11-game win streak. Single-handedly, the NSIC player of the year, Brooke Olson, was enough to overthrow the Mavericks as she scorched them with 36 points. This brought UMD their third consecutive NSIC tournament win.
In the first outing versus UMD, the Mavs lost, 78-75. Junior guard Joey Batt said that they “dug themselves into a hole they couldn’t get out of in time,” and that is seemingly what happened once again as the conference championship game ended, 80-74.
Right out of the gate, the Bulldogs left the Mavericks in a world of problems. UMD drained a pair of threes to start the game. Olson hit the first and then Taytum Rhoades hit the second off a fastbreak push.
UMD clamped down on defense and went on a 26-6 scoring run. The Mavs were left discombobulated, missing their shots and letting go of the defense they rely on so much. The game was in UMD’s hands early on.
The Mavs called a much-needed timeout after being down 20 and found some footing. They finished off the first quarter with a score of 28-14 after a couple of stops on defense and a few hit shots.
The second quarter needed a lot of improvement from the Mavs as they now had to dig themselves out of this hole. It was a back-and-forth battle but the Mavs seemed to start figuring out the Bulldogs. They cut the lead to only eight points four times but could never break the barrier. Everytime they found themselves getting within the eight-point mark, Duluth struck and brought the lead back to double digits.
The half finished with Olson leading the Bulldogs with 17 points, while the Maverick’s leading scorer, Destinee Bursch, had seven. The score was 42-32 and the Mavericks needed an answer to Olson’s scoring.
Coming out of the locker room after the half, the Maverick defense seemed rejuvenated. Six minutes into the third quarter they held Duluth to four points, and MSU found 10 of their own. They cut the lead to 46-42 but still could not fully take away the momentum the Bulldogs held. The quarter closed at 59-51 and the Mavericks still had a lot of work to do.
The Mavs continued to improve their defense and were hounding them, giving the Mavs another run. Bursch hit a second-chance three after an offensive rebound from Molly Ihle to cut the score within four.
Directly after, MSU forced a turnover off of their press defense and Mackenzie Schweim got a layup off the fast break. The lead was cut to 62-60 and MSU had a one-possession game for the first time. After one UMD free throw make, they were still within one possession and UMD relied on Olson to hit a clutch shot to push the deficit. Instead, she got whistled for the first offensive foul of the game.
In turn, Emily Russo came up big, hitting a three and tying the game for the first time. The Mavs had a 12-4 run going, but Olson rallied and hit a behind-the-back, reverse layup which ended the run. The Mavs couldn’t bounce back and never found the lead during the whole game. Ultimately, the hole they found themselves in from the first quarter was too big.
Bursch led the team with 25 points on 7-12 shooting. She also shot 90% from the free throw line, hitting nine of the team’s 14. Ten points were left unanswered for the Mavs as they shot 14-24 from the line. Making those could have been the difference maker they needed.
Despite the loss, both teams still have the daunting road of the NCAA Division II Playoffs ahead of them. In the tournament, fans could potentially see a rematch between these two teams. Duluth has the Mavericks’ number, but as the saying goes, “It’s very hard to beat a team three times.”
The Mavericks currently sit at four in the central region rankings, while Duluth holds the number two spot. The selection show will take place Sunday at 9:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.
Write to Luke Jackson at Luke.Jackson.email@example.com
Header Photo: MSU Women’s Basketball team takes second in the NSIC tournament with a 80-74 loss against #9 Minnesota Duluth. (Dylan Engel)