The Minnesota State Women’s Basketball team made it to the second round of the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament before the University of Minnesota Duluth put an end to their season Saturday.
The fifth-seed Mavericks started the tournament Friday against the fourth-seed Central Missouri Jennies where they won in dramatic fashion with a score of 83-80. Saturday’s contest brought them their first-seed rivals UMD.
The Bulldogs already beat the Mavericks in two tight games. The first time was in the regular season and the second was in the NSIC Conference Championship game. In the Maverick’s third chance at redemption, they still could not figure out the mystery of how to stop UMD’s fifth-year senior, NSIC Player of the Year and Central Division Player of the Year, Brooke Olson. Olson scored a career-high 43 points, putting the team on her back and scoring half of UMD’s final 86 points. The game ended in a blowout of 86-70, ending the Mavericks’ season.
Going back to Friday’s game, the Jennies began the game on a scoring streak which was the first of many throughout the game. Central Missouri came out strong with a 9-2 run which was later pushed to 16-8 at the 2:26 mark of the first quarter. The Mavs were able to stay level-headed and found their game as they scored eight quick buckets to close out the first quarter 21-16.
The Mavs continued this momentum and found themselves on a run of their own early in the second quarter. They took their first lead of the game as they went on a 10-4 run in the first two minutes of the quarter making the score 26-25. The score went back and forth throughout the remainder of the quarter as the lead switched four times but Maverick guard Joey Batt was the deciding factor in the first half. Batt tallied 13 of her 15 first-half points in the second quarter and hit a three with five seconds remaining in the half to push the Maverick lead to 42-38.
Coming out of halftime, both teams found themselves on two huge runs. The Jennies started off firing on all fronts. They shut down the Mavericks and put themselves in a 22-2 run only five minutes into the half. In turn, Mavs head coach, Emilee Thiesse, called a key timeout to regroup her team in hopes to build a run of their own.
“We called a timeout there and that’s when our leaders started really taking over saying, ‘hey right now we have to come together, we really got to pull on each other.’ We took it one possession at a time. We had big play after big play defensively and put ourselves in a great position,” said Thiesse.
After this timeout, the Mavericks cut Central Missouri’s lead to four after scoring 14 points in two minutes. Despite the scoring run, MSU didn’t find the lead until the fourth quarter at the 4:58 mark. The game stayed neck and neck until the very end when Maverick’s guard, Dentinee Bursch, called the game. The score was tied 81-81 with 14 seconds left. MSU held on to the ball until two seconds remained and trusted Bursch to hit her shot. She hit a pull-up jumper finalizing the score, 83-81. The game concluded on hard defense from the Mavs stopping the Jennies from getting a shot off.
In both previous games versus UMD, the Mavericks found themselves trailing heavily early on and finding their rhythm in the second half. Saturday’s game was different, the Mavericks were close with the Bulldogs early on and found themselves in a large deficit later on.
Neither team in the first half found themselves with a lead greater than seven. In the second quarter, there were four lead changes in the final five minutes. The Bulldogs gained the final lead going into the locker room as Mason Thiesen laid in two points with two seconds remaining to make the score 40-37.
The advantage for the Bulldogs throughout the first half was Olson as she recorded 20 of the team’s first-half points and continued to dominate throughout the rest of the night.
“She is nearly unstoppable, she’s just an incredible basketball player that has improved year after year,” said Thiesse.
The Bulldogs showed up in the third quarter and proved that they were the better team once again. UMD outscored the Mavs 20-8 in the third and completely broke down MSU. In the fourth, their reign continued as the Mavs brought the lead down to ten points but could not break through into single digits.
The two main contributors to the Bulldog’s win were Olson and fouls. The Bulldogs kept breaking through the Maverick’s press defense and giving Olson the ball for her to feast in the paint. Olson earned 23 points in the second half and shot 9-9 on free throws.
As a team, UMD shot 93% from the free-throw line making 27 out of 29. The Mavericks could not stay out of foul trouble as they recorded 27 throughout the game. Two Mavericks had four fouls while five Mavericks had three. The mixture of Olson and fouls was the winning recipe for the Bulldogs.
With the loss, MSU’s season ended with an overall record of 26-5. The Mavs made it to the NSIC conference championship and to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Looking ahead, the Mavs will only be losing one player this season and will be having three new recruits for the 2023-24 season.
“We love each other on and off the court. I mean, we’re sisters and everything we do is together and for each other and I think that’s what we did prove this season,” said junior guard Taylor Theusch.
Header Photo: MSU Women’s Basketball team falls to Minnesota Duluth with a 86-70 loss in round two of the NCAA tournament. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)
Write to Luke Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org