By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
Offensively, the Minnesota State women’s basketball team did a solid job Saturday in a 74-55 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference win against MSU Moorhead.
The Mavericks shot 50.8 percent from the field (30 of 59), received a career-high 23 points from Aubrey Davis and got another 17 points from Karlee Gengenbacher.
But it was MSU’s defense that left head coach Emilee Thiesse most pleased in her postgame interview. The Mavericks showed improved defense the night before in a 71-47 victory over Northern State and continued that trend at Bresnan Arena Saturday.
“We had 31 points off 26 turnovers tonight and that’s encouraging,” Thiesse said. “We’re getting better defensively compared to where we were at the start of the year.
“We weren’t quite as a clean as we were against Northern — they hurt us with some screens tonight — but overall it was a good defensive effort. We just have to keep improving in that area.”
Davis, whose previous single-game high was 22 points against Concordia-St. Paul last season, also praised the Mavericks’ defensive effort.
“When we lost our second game to Wayne State (last weekend) we decided we had to buckle down on that side of the ball,” said Davis, who finished with three steals and turned all of them into fastbreak layups. “We’ve been working hard on it but we still have plenty of room to get better.”
Saturday’s game was ragged at the start as neither team scored until Moorhead’s Leah Miller hit a free throw at the 18:41 mark. The teams were tied at 7 with 7:27 to play in the half before MSU went on a 10-2 run to open things up.
The Mavericks’ rally was led by layups from Ali Wilkinson and Ashley Olson and a pair of 3-pointers by Davis. MSU held on to a comfortable lead for the rest of the half, taking a 39-30 advantage into the locker room.
The Mavericks put the game away with an 11-3 run early in the second half. Gengenbacher had a layup and medium-range jumper, Davis and Jameila Hudnell had fastbreak layups and Wilkinson hit a free throw to fuel the rally, which gave MSU a 55-37 lead.
“It’s always good when you can create offense off your defense,” Davis said. “We did a lot of that tonight and we have to keep pushing.”
Wilkinson led the Mavericks with 12 rebounds and helped out with seven points. Kaycee Charette led Moorhead with 12 points.
MSU reserve Lexie Ulfers went down with a left knee injury near the end of the game and the preliminary diagnosis is a torn ACL. Thiesse said they won’t know for sure until the MRI comes back.
The win improves Minnesota State to 11-2 overall and 7-2 in the NSIC. Moorhead falls to 7-6 and 4-5.