The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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February 16, 2013

Wilkinson leads Mavericks -- again

WINONA — When Ali Wilkinson suffered her second major knee injury early last season, she never doubted that she’d come back and be an effective player again.

On Saturday, Wilkinson became the 20th player in program history to reach 1,000 points, and she did it in an impressive victory.

“It means a lot,” she said. “When you’re growing up, it was always so exciting when someone scored 1,000 points, and you always wanted to be the next person to do it.”

Minnesota State shot 60 percent in the first half to build a 51-30 lead and coasted to a 77-68 victory over Winona State in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women’s basketball game at McCown Gym. It’s the third 20-win season in the last 27 years of Minnesota State basketball and stretches the team’s winning streak to nine games.

“We’re always talking about the next game being the most important one,” coach Emilee Thiesse said. “We have to keep getting better.”

The Mavericks played a near-perfect first half, shooting 60.6 percent from the field, including 7 of 11 from 3-point range, and were plus-6 in rebounding. The Mavericks committed only three turnovers and four fouls and limited Winona State to just 37.9 percent shooting.

“Defensively and offensively, that was probably the most complete half we’ve played in a long time,” Thiesse said. “Our shooting was good, but our defense was where we needed to be.”

Wilkinson had all of her 14 points and six rebounds in the first half, which the Mavericks led by as much as 22 points.

“That’s the best half we’ve played,” Wilkinson said. “We held them to only 30 points, so that means our defense was working. We scored 51 points, so that means our offense was working. And we didn’t foul. That was big.”

The second half was predictably less pretty, with the Warriors desperately tossing up 3-pointers while the Mavericks stayed comfortably ahead.

Aubrey Davis finished with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists, and Karlee Gengenbacher had 12 points. Ashley Olson made three 3-pointers and totaled 11 points.

The Mavericks shot 50 percent from the field, making 11 of 21 3-pointers. The bench outscored Winona State’s 25-2.

The Mavericks (20-4, 16-4 in Northern Sun) return home for the final weekend of the regular season, hosting Sioux Falls Friday and Southwest Minnesota State Saturday.

“Twenty wins is exciting,” Thiesse said. “Given the history of the program, we want to get back to where we were (a few seasons ago). Given that they’ve had to learn new concepts and a new system in such a short time, it’s nice for our program to accomplish those goals.”

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