by Kyle Wahlberg
The MSUM women’s basketball team may be young, but their play was that of an experienced team on Saturday night.
After scoring only 35 points in the first half, the team exploded for 52 points in the second half to down the University of Mary in Northern Sun Intercollegiate action 87-75.
The Dragons (3-4, 2-1 in NSIC play) controlled things early, forcing the Marauders to play catch-up for most of the game.
Down 15-9 early on, the Dragons started the comeback, slowly chipping away at the lead. Junior Heather Strese led the Dragons with her team and career high 24 points.
Strese, who averages 7.2 points per contest, channeled her inner ‘Kobe’ as she put together her best effort of the year.
The Dragons as a team shot almost 40% from the field but had nearly double the amount of rebounds as the Marauders, leading that category 53-28. The Dragons hit 30 of 36 free-throws en route to a big game for the team.
“As a team we played very well,” Strese said. “We came out really well and had our game plan and stuck to it.”
Her team wouldn’t let her down either. Fellow junior guard Megan Roehrich matched basket-for-basket with Strese as the Dragons would go on a 15-4 run to take the lead and wouldn’t let it go with six minutes left in the first half.
Improvement is something these Dragons need night-in and night-out.
As a group with no seniors, they rely on juniors like Strese and Roehrich to step up and lead this team that has five freshman.
“It plays a part because everyone is looking at someone to do something instead of someone doing this,” said Karla Nelson, MSUM women’s head basketball coach. “It was nice to see some people knock some shots down and get that confidence on the offensive end.”
The Dragons showed some signs of fatigue on the tail end of a back-to-back. They struggled early with shooting from beyond the arc, however they held the Marauders scoreless from three-point range for the first 10 minutes and ended the first half leading 35-27.
“It was a little sloppy, but I thought both teams on a back-to-back brought a lot of energy,” said Nelson. “I’m seeing improvement here and there for us, which is important because we are such a young team.”
The Dragons continued well as a team, evening out the scoring between the team, giving themselves a comfortable lead but the Marauders would close the gap to 3 points with 13:11 left to play due to some strong play in the post, but the Dragons would score 7 straight to take control of the game.
Baskets by the Marauders on two possessions cut the Dragons lead to 4 with two minutes left to play. But Strese hit a clutch three-pointer to extend the lead to 7.
“I felt really confident in practice this week,” Strese said. “I came in this weekend knowing I had to pick it up and I built up a lot of confidence throughout the week.”
Something this group showed, getting their first sweep at home of the same team since 2006.