Women’s basketball takes L against Duluth

Women’s basketball takes L against Duluth

Lauren Lott, Sports Reporter

The Winona State University women’s basketball fell to University of Minnesota Duluth Friday night, but came back to fight for a win against St. Cloud State University on Saturday.

The team had one of their better games of the season against Duluth, but were unable to compete against the Bulldogs shooting 60 percent and outscoring the Warriors on turnovers 19-10.

“We actually only had 11 turnovers, which is way below their average of forcing 18 turnovers a game,” head coach Scott Ballard said.

This was the Warriors’ largest loss of the year as the average margin of defeat had been six points before this 21-point loss to Duluth, 59-80. Even though they gave up a season-high 26 points to the Bulldogs in the first quarter, the team was able to hang with Duluth from the opening tip scoring 18 in the quarter.

“We were disappointed with the loss but not disappointed with how we played,” Ballard said.

The Bulldogs continued to grow their lead, shooting 50 percent from three-point range and having six different players shoot 12-24 three-point shots.

“We had one of our better shooting games of the season at 44 percent but we couldn’t keep up with their shooting that night,” Ballard said.

The Warriors went into Saturday and fought back and forth against St. Cloud to come away with the win, 55-53.

Winona State started off slow in the first quarter scoring six points to the Huskies 18.

“The first quarter we just didn’t make shots and our defense got stronger as the game progressed, and we became more familiar with their personnel and offense,” Ballard said.

This was true as the Warriors went on in the second quarter to have a 14-0 run to bring them within five points of the Huskies at the end of the quarter.

“Friday’s game was more challenging on defense because they had two post players that were good three-point shooters,” Ballard said. “In the St. Cloud game, it was mainly their guards that would shoot the three-point shots and so we were able to keep our posts closer to the basket to give help on drives and cuts into the lane.”

The Warriors continued to fire on offense starting off the third quarter with a 7-0 run to take their first lead of the night on a fast-break layup by sophomore Taylor Hustad. The teams switched the lead two more times in the quarter, with the Warriors down by one going in to the final quarter of the game.

“The second half we started attacking their defense with more ball screens to open up driving lanes for our guards, which got us going offensively,” Ballard said. “Then it was a matter of being mentally tough down the stretch and having people make plays.”

The Warriors stayed strong in the fourth quarter as the lead changed yet again between the teams three times.

Senior Rachel Novotny sparked the offense partway through the quarter with Winona State trailing by three. Fellow senior Kayla Schaefer hit two straight jump shots, and sophomore Allie Pickrain nailed a jump shot with 2:49 left in the game to put them ahead 52-47.

The Huskies used their three-point shooting to stay in the game and tie it up 53-53 with 38 seconds left on the clock. Novotny got an

essential offensive rebound and a layup to bring the Warriors up 55-53 with 7 seconds left in the game.

Novotny had her third double-double of the year with 12 points and 11 boards, while Pickrain assisted with 11 points and sophomore Emily Kieck with 10 points and three assists.

Winona State shot 50 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes of the game.

“It was a well-deserved and hard-fought team win against a very good team on the road,” Ballard said.

Coach Ballard is optimistic of the improvements the team continues to make.

“We just need to continue to work on becoming more consistent on offense, so we have very

few empty possessions during the course of the game,” Ballard said. “We are shooting well from the free throw line, turning the ball over less and finishing easy scoring opportunities better. Our bench is also getting deeper because of the development of our younger players. We still have a great chance to play for a home playoff game with six games remaining and need to continue to improve from week to week.”

The Warriors will play at their home gym next weekend for games against Minot State University on Friday, Feb. 8 at 5:30 p.m. and University of Mary on Saturday. Feb. 9 at 3:30 p.m.