MANKATO — Not many freshmen get the green light to shoot, especially in the season's sixth game, but Tyra Johnson isn't a typical first-year player.
"She doesn't seem like a true freshman when she's out on the floor," Minnesota State coach Emilee Thiesse said. "She has such a good understanding of the game. Defensively, she has some of the best instincts and makes good decisions. And she makes big shots."
Johnson, a 6-foot-0 freshman from Eastview High School, scored a season-high 18 points as Minnesota State defeated Upper Iowa 101-66 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game Friday at Bresnan Arena. The Mavericks outscored the Peacocks 50-33 in the first half and 51-33 in the second.
"We haven't had a home game in a month so it was nice to get back here in front of our fans," Thiesse said. "It's the week before finals so the girls are a little drained so it was nice to get on the floor and get going."
Johnson, the grad daughter of former Mankato East basketball coach Dave Johnson, had scored just 26 points in the first five games, but on Friday, she made 8 of 10 shots, including her only 3-point attempt, and 1 of 2 free throws.
"I've just been getting in the gym and working on my shot," Johnson said. "I need to keep working on the smaller things, like footwork. That can really help to improve my game."
Minnesota State's starting five, which combined for 51 points, averages more than 53 points, but there's not much of a dropoff when the reserves check in. The bench scored 50 points Friday.
"That's unheard of," Thiesse said. "We have scorers all over, and there isn't a lineup where I look out there and think I need to get a scorer out there. That's a good thing to have."