The Free Press, Mankato, MN


December 7, 2012

Wilkinson leads MSU women to big win

MANKATO — The Minnesota State women’s basketball team opened the season with four victories, beating a Division III opponent, two from the NAIA and another form the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

But Friday’s 76-68 victory over Winona State at Bresnan Arena was more impressive, if only that the opponent was more legitimate and the margin was far more lopsided than the final score indicated.

“The team was really ready to play,” said assistant coach Amy Sander, filling in for coach Emilee Thiesse who was bringing her newborn baby home from the hospital Friday night. “Winona is always a good opponent.

“They’re at the top of the conference, and that’s where we want to be. These are the games we need to win.”

Ali Wilkinson scored a career-high 31 points as the Mavericks dumped Winona State in a Northern Sun game at Bresnan Arena. The victory was thorough, as the Mavericks dominated the second half.

“We had some spurts tonight,” Wilkinson said. “But we need to have more consistent play. If we can do that, that will be our best game.”

The Mavericks led for most of the first half, using a 12-3 run midway through that made it 18-12. Winona State scored the last seven points of the first half, taking advantage of two bad 3-point attempts and a turnover, to pull even at 36 at the break. The Mavericks shot 41.2 percent in the first half but made only 3 of 12 from 3-point range. Winona State was 5 of 9 from distance, playing at a much-slower pace.

“We talked at halftime that (Winona State) might think they have some momentum in the second half,” Sander said. “We wanted to jump on them early.”

The Mavericks opened the second half with seven straight points and weren’t threatened much after that. The final was the closest Winona State came over the final 15 minutes, ending the game on a 15-2 run.

Wilkinson had 21 points in the first 14 minutes of the second half, ending up with her 21st career double-double with 10 rebounds. She was 9 of 14 from the field, 3 of 3 on 3-pointers and 10 of 10 on free throws.

“The coaches told me that (Winona State) would play behind me in the post, so I knew I could use my quickness,” she said. “I just went to work down low.”

The Mavericks (5-0) play at Bresnan Arena again today, taking on Upper Iowa at 6 p.m.

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