The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

March 2, 2013

MSU women explode early, bump off Dragons

MANKATO — It would have been easy for the Minnesota State women’s basketball team to coast after scoring the first 20 points of Saturday’s game.

But the improving Mavericks aren’t playing that way right now.

“We talked about the first time we played Moorhead; we weren’t aggressive right away,” Minnesota State coach Emilee Thiesse said. “We really wanted to come out aggressive, and that’s what we did. And we never let up.”

Minnesota State started strong and played well throughout, finishing Minnesota State-Moorhead’s season with a 75-57 victory in the quarterfinals of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament Saturday at Bresnan Arena. It may have been the final home game for the Mavericks, who are 15-0 at home and have won 13 straight games. However, there remains a chance they could host the Central Region tournament if they keep playing like this, and a few other teams get beat.

“We’re just going to take it one step at a time,” Thiesse said. “We’ll get ready for the next game. If we keep taking care of business, and we end up back here, we’d be the happiest team.”

Ali Wilkinson scored the first seven points of the game to set the tone.Steffaney Thomas added six points as the Mavericks scored 12 points in close, pushing the lead to 20-0 after eight minutes.

“It was good that we could get the lead,” said Wilkinson, who has never been on a team that scored the first 20 points of a game. “We never looked back.”

The Dragons were able to work back within 27-12, but another 14-point run opened the lead to 28 with three minutes remaining in the half.

The Dragons were able to close within 41-25 by the break, but Minnesota State opened the second half on a 14-2 run to end any suspense.

“We’ve been shooting the ball pretty well, and our defense has been playing better,” Wilkinson said. “If we can gets stops, we can score in transition. Sometimes, we don’t even have to set up the offense.”

Wilkinson finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and a career-high four blocked shots. Jamelia Hudnell added 12 points off the bench, and Thomas ended up with 10 points and six rebounds. The Mavericks shot 42.1 percent and held Minnesota State-Moorhead to 32.1 percent shooting.

The Dragons were led by Morgan Zabel, who had 15 points.

“We want this so bad,” Wilkinson said. “The seniors have won a national championship, but none of us have won a conference championship.”

The Mavericks (24-4) take on Winona State in the tournament semifinals at noon Friday at Rochester.

“We’re excited, but we don’t want to be complacent,” Thiesse said. “Your biggest fear going into the postseason is getting too comfortable. We still have things we can work on and get better.”

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