By Chad Courrier
---- — SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In the last three games, Aubrey Davis has struggled some. She's scored only 19 points, making just 7 of 23 shots and 1 of 9 from 3-point range, with only five assists.
But the numbers don't tell the whole story. At this point of the season, the Minnesota State women's basketball team needs an aggressive mindset out of its junior point guard. On Sunday, Davis delivered.
"Honestly, people might look at her stats (in the last few games) and think she's not playing well, but I feel like she's playing as well as she has in a long time," Minnesota State coach Emilee Thiesse said. "When she's aggressive, the team is aggressive."
Davis scored 20 points as the Mavericks posted a business-like 95-71 victory over Mary in the quarterfinals of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women's basketball tournament Sunday afternoon at The Pentagon. The Mavericks took control early, built an insurmountable lead and finished strong.
"I always feel like I have to step up," Davis said. "As the point guard, there's a lot on your shoulders. Other players look to you for leadership and to bring energy."
Coming off a 59-point second half in Wednesday's tournament-opening victory against Minnesota Crookston, the Mavericks were aggressive and efficient on the offensive end.
Five different players scored as Minnesota State jumped ahead 17-8, then Davis nailed a 3-pointer for a 25-10 lead after 8 minutes. The Mavericks' depth paid off at the end of the half as the Mavericks had a 14-5 run, with Ali Wilkinson scoring five, in the final 3 minutes to lead 58-37.
Wilkinson and Davis each scored 14 in the first half as the Mavericks shot 51.2 percent from the field, made 5 of 11 from 3-point range, had a 23-16 rebounding advantage and forced 13 turnovers.
"It always starts with defense, that's what I'm always preaching," Thiesse said. "Defense leads to pace, and at times, I thought we got foul-happy. When we do that, it slows the game and lets the other team catch its breath. We want to go, go, go."
Davis' third 3-pointer made it 66-40 early in the second half, and the Mavericks led by 20 for all but 30 seconds of the rest of the game. The Mavericks ended up shooting 43.8 percent for the game and made 6 of 18 from 3-point range. There were 22 assists against 13 turnovers, and the Mavericks were plus-5 in rebounding.
Five Mavericks scored 11 or more points, led by Davis, who was 3 of 6 on 3-pointers and 5 of 6 at the free-throw line with four rebounds and four assists. Wilkinson had 19 points, seven rebounds and four steals, and Lexie Ulfers added 14 points and six rebounds. Jamie Bresnahan finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, and Karlee Gengenbacher scored 11 points with six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
"Coach is always saying we're trying to climb the ladder," Davis said. "We didn't get as far as we wanted last year so we have to keep working to get a championship."
Minnesota State (23-5) takes on Northern State in the tournament semifinals at noon today. Northern State defeated the Mavericks 79-63 on Jan. 10 at Aberdeen, S.D.