The St. Cloud State women’s basketball team came away with a split at home against the Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs and the University of Sioux Falls Cougars.
The Huskies defeated the Mustangs by a final of 78-53 Friday before falling in the rematch of last’s year’s NSIC Tournament game against Sioux Falls 80-68.
Friday’s win was a direct result of the dominance the Huskies displayed in the second quarter, outscoring the Mustangs 23-6 in that period.
Karissa LeCaptain led the way for the Huskies with a 17 point, 10 rebound double-double.
Lauren Novak had a nice game off the pine, finishing with 13 points on four of six shooting from the field. She also hit three of her four three-point shots.
Betsy MacDonald rounded out the Huskies double-digit scorers with her 10 point performance.
Saturday’s game looked a lot like Friday’s, but in reverse. The Huskies and Cougars battled to a near stalemate in the first quarter, 20-17.
However, the Cougars came out on fire in the second quarter and outscored the Huskies 24-12, which gave them a 44-29 halftime lead.
The Huskies bounced back in the second half by outscoring the Cougars 39-36 in the final two quarters of play.
Now, there were a couple of reasons that the Huskies fell on Saturday. The primary reason for the defeat was the hot shooting from the Cougars in the first half. They hit 62% of their field goals and 50% of their three-pointers in the first two quarters, before the Huskies defense held them to 35% from the field and 33% from downtown in the second half.
A second reason is the amount of free throws that the Cougars made. By the end of the game the Cougars were 20 of 25 from the charity stripe compared to the Huskies 9 of 13 shooting from the line.
The last reason is something that can’t be tracked with statistics alone. Throughout the game, the Huskies would play at the Cougars pace, which is far faster than the Huskies are used to playing. This rushed style of play resulted in several Huskies turnovers throughout the game.
On the other end, the Cougars played fast… but were experienced enough with the style of play that when a certain offensive set wasn’t producing the desired results, they would give the ball to Taylor Varsho on the perimeter and either run another set, or run an isolation play for her and let her take over.
The difference seemed to be Varsho herself. She was constantly huddling her teammates on the court and barking instructions to them. She commanded the offense throughout the game and it was a large part of why the Cougars outshot the Huskies by over 15% in the first half and why they were able to hold on for the win.
Varsho’s command of the offense, one could argue, is also what’s primarily responsible for the amount of free throws the Huskies gave the Cougars throughout the game.
The Huskies never knew which player was going to get the shot, or where they were going to shoot on any given possession because of how well the ball was moving within the offense. As a result, every Cougar was a threat on offense and the Huskies simply lost track of the post players [mainly Alison Klostergaard and Sam Knecht] from time to time. As a result the Huskies were forced to foul or allow the Cougars to get easy layups.
When asked about the team’s performance on Saturday, coach Fish said, “We didn’t get after the way we needed to defensively. We didn’t do a very good job of defending the on-ball screens which allowed them to get the ball inside. That also opened up the three-point shot and they were able to get on a roll after that.”
Despite the loss, coach Fish is looking forward to the rest of the season, “Well there’s a lot of season left and a lot of things to look forward to. But Sioux Falls is a good basketball team, so we’ll watch film and analyze [the game] and get right back after it on Monday.”
The Huskies currently sit in a two-way tie for the third seed in the NSIC North Division with Minnesota Crookston. They trail NSIC North Division leaders Northern State and MSU-Moorhead by one game.
The Huskies will be on the road next weekend to take on NSIC South Division leader Winona State and Upper Iowa University on Friday and Saturday respectively.