MARSHALL - Confidence was key in Friday's Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game between Mary and Southwest Minnesota State.
Winners of seven straight conference games, the Marauders shot with confidence in the first half, hitting 46.9 percent of their shots, and crashed the boards for 50 rebounds.
The Mustangs' defense has been struggling with confidence this season, giving up easy drives to the hoop and open shots along the perimeter. Down 17 early in the second half, SMSU could not climb back from the double-digit deficit, falling 74-66 at the R/A Facility.
Photo by Joe Brown
Southwest Minnesota State's Jessie Watts, left, is pressured along the sidelines by Mary's Laura Petersen during the first half of Friday's NSIC game at the R/A Facility.
"(Mary's) playing well right now, and we just went away from what was working early on," said Mustangs head women's basketball coach Allison Kruger. "We know what the problem is and we can't seem to adjust from game to game. We're not playing our defense.
"Right now, I think there's a lack of trust and a lack of discipline on the defensive end and it's creating some issues. To stop good teams, you need good team defense."
In the first five minutes, the Marauders' offense was excelling, starting the game on a 10-2 run, leading by as much as 10 points in the first half. Down 17-7, SMSU went on a 9-0 run to close the gap to 1 with 11 minutes, 15 seconds left in the first half. In that stretch, post Ellen Degler scored four of her 12 points. Degler also had a team-high six rebounds for the Mustangs (4-6 NSIC, 5-9 overall).
Kayla Schmidt 3-10 0-0 9, Ali Collins 3-8 0-1 8, Shaunna Knife 3-9 5-5 11, Laura Petersen 2-7 2-4 8, Linda Murray 2-8 2-3 6, Taylor Luke 1-1 0-0 2, Lindsey Sand 3-3 5-6 11, McKenzie Foster 2-3 0-0 5, Mia Gilreath 0-1 2-3 2, Kaitlyn Haag 4-10 4-5 12. Totals 23-60 20-27 74. Three-Pointers 8-21 Rebounds 50 (Murray 9, Haag 8) Assists 10 Steals 7 (Petersen 4) Blocks 5 Turnovers 21 Total Fouls 16.
Sam Lynn 3-8 2-2 9, Abby Kenealy 5-19 2-2 12, Bree Holleman 2-8 0-0 6, Hannah Beeler 0-4 0-0 0, Taylor Voss 3-4 1-2 8, Nathalie Svensson 0-1 0-0 0, Courtney McCarthy 1-2 0-0 2, Jessie Watts 1-3 0-0 2, Ellen Degler 5-8 2-3 12, Hope Bonlander 5-9 0-0 13, Emilee Duske 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 26-69 7-9 66. Three-Pointers 7-20 (Bonlander 3-4) Rebounds 32 (Degler 6) Assists 13 (Lynn 4) Steals 10 (Bonlander 3) Blocks 2 Turnovers 15 Total Fouls 20.
Halftime Score: Mary 42, SMSU 34.
"Ellen's playing really well. She just does the simple things, and that's what you want kids to learn from Ellen," Kruger said. "She takes her time and she sees her teammates and she has a mentality. She's not the tallest kid, but she get a lot of rebounds."
The Marauders (9-2, 12-3) would regain their edge, ending the first half on a 4-0 run, including a buzzer-beater by Kaitlyn Haag to put the halftime score at 42-34. Off the bench, Haag scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Haag, along with Linda Murray, gave SMSU all they could handle in the post, combining for 18 points and 17 boards. Mary out-rebounded SMSU 50-34.
"They rebound really hard, we knew that going in, and we didn't take that to heart," Kruger said. "We let them get going early and they're going to capitalize."
Leading 43-38 in the early in the second half, Mary went on a 12-2 run to hold a 55-40 lead. SMSU cut the lead to 59-45 following a jumper by Taylor Voss, but would not score a bucket for over three minutes.
In that time, the Marauders couldn't find the bucket, either, going over six minutes without a basket as SMSU cut the deficit to 62-53. The Mustangs got as close at 68-61 with 57 seconds left, but the Marauders hit six free throws in the final minute to secure their eighth straight victory.
"It's the consistency that's the problem," Kruger said of her defense.
"When we play how we play, we're really good and we can play with anyone in this conference. But until we get that for 40 minutes, it's going to be that roller-coaster ride."
After scoring eight points in the first half, SMSU's leading scorer, Abby Kenealy, shot 2-for-11 in the second half.
SMSU's Hope Bonlander led all scorers with 13 points. Finishing with 12 points, Kenealy is now two points shy of becoming the 18th member SMSU's 1,000-point club.
The Mustangs return to the R/A Facility today for a game against Northern State. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.