MANKATO - No. 23-ranked Minnesota State built a 21-2 lead and then held off a second-half charge by Southwest Minnesota State to earn an 85-63 victory on Friday in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game at the Taylor Center.
"Minnesota State presented a tough challenge, but I feel like we didn't represent ourselves as well as we could have in the first half," SMSU head coach Allison Kruger said. "We won the the second half and that was our goal. If we would have put that effort into the first half, I would have to have seen what would have happened."
Karlee Gengenbacher led the Mavericks (16-5 overall, 13-4 NSIC South Division) with 16 points, while Ali Wilkinson added 15 points and seven rebounds. Minnesota State entered the game as the NSIC's top scoring team and ranks seventh in Division II, averaging 83 points per game.
Annessa Rosch scored a career-high 20 points to pace SMSU (4-17, 2-15 NSIC South), connecting on 7 of 11 field goals with four 3-pointers. Bree Holleman (15) and Ellen Degler (12) also scored in double figures for the Mustangs.
"Annessa had some confidence in shooting the ball and attacking the rim," Kruger said. "Early-on, she struggled with turning the ball over. But she composed herself in the second half with a better mentallity and that led her to make some big plays for us."
The Mavericks built a 33-point lead in the first half and led 48-22 at halftime, before SMSU stormed back in the second half to pull within nine points, 68-59, with 5 minutes, 12 seconds left in the game.
"We changed our mentallity at halftime after Minnesota State came out really strong and physical in the first half," Kruger said. "At halftime, we talked about pushing back whenever someone pushes you over. You can't lay over and die. So, we focused on punching back, doing the little things, not being intimidated and gaining some momentum."
Minnesota State started the game strong scoring the first six points and never looked back in building a 21-2 advantage with 12:19 left in the opening half.
SMSU struggled from the field in the first 15 minutes - making just four field goals - and didn't reach double figures until 4:24 left in the half.
Minnesota State pushed the lead to 44-11 at the 2:31 mark before SMSU closed the half with two 3-pointers by Rosch and another by Holleman to cut the deficit to 48-22 at halftime.
The Mustangs wouldn't go away and continued to chip into the Mavericks lead until cutting the deficit to less than 20 with 13:16 left in the game at 58-40 following a layup by Jessie Watts.
Minnesota State maintained a 66-51 lead with 8 minutes left before SMSU countered with an 8-2 run capped by a layup by Alison Nagel to cut the deficit to 68-59 with 5:17 and forcing Minnesota State to call a timeout.
"We took it step-by-step in the second half and made a great run," Kruger said. "We had Minnesota State on its heels. I wish we could have done that in the first half."
Minnesota State answered with six straight points to extend the lead to 74-59, before Holleman and Rosch scored back-to-back field goals to make the score 74-63 at the 2:36 mark. That was as close as the Mustangs would get before the Mavericks closed the game scoring the final 11 points to seal the victory.
MINNESOTA STATE 85, SMSU 65
SOUTHWEST MINNESOTA STATE (4-16 OVERALL, 2-14 NSIC): Mikayla Saathoff 2-6 0-1 4, Bree Holleman 7-15 0-0 15, Jessie Watts 1-2 0-0 2, Rebekah Rolling 1-5 0-0 2, Ellen Degler 6-7 0-0 12, Hannah Beeler 2-3 0-0 4, Annessa Rosch 7-11 2-2 20, Emilee Duske 0-0 0-0 0, Alison Nagel 1-7 2-2 4. TOTALS: 27-56 (48.2%) 4-5 (80%) 63.
MINNESOTA STATE (15-5 OVERALL, 12-4 NSIC): Britney Scherber 4-7 0-0 10, Aubrey Davis 2-5 0-0 5, Sammie Delzotto 0-2 0-0 0, Alli Hoefer 2-4 0-0 4, Ashley Olson 2-5 0-0 6, Tyra Johnson 1-3 0-0 2, Hillary Paulson 2-7 2-2 6, Karlee Gengenbacher 6-9 3-4 16, Lexie Ulfers 2-3 4-4 8, Jamie Bresnahan 5-9 2-2 13, Ali Wilkinson 6-11 3-4 15.
HALFTIME: MSU 48, SMSU 22. 3-POINT FIELD GOALS: SMSU 5-14 (Rosch 4); MSU 7-21 (Scherber 2). REBOUNDS: SMSU 29 (Nagel 5, Watts, 5, Degler 5); MSU 35 (Wilkinson 7, Bresnahan 6). TOTAL FOULS (FOULED OUT): SMSU 14; MSU 14. TECHNICAL FOULS: None. ASSISTS: SMSU 14 (Saathoff 4); MSU 17 (Bresnahan 3, Gengenbacher 3, Olson 3). STEALS: SMSU 10 (Degler 3); MSU 15 (Wilkinson 3). BLOCKED SHOTS: SMSU 0; MSU X (). TURNOVERS: SMSU 21; MSU 12.