Kylie Post kept the Golden Eagles in it, one layup at a time.
Then it all got away.
Poor free-throw shooting and defensive lapses caught up to Minnesota Crookston women's basketball at the end of the third quarter. Behind an 11-0 run to close the quarter, Northern State pulled away, ultimately beating the Golden Eagles, 78-64, in an NSIC game on Friday evening at Lysaker Gymnasium.
The Wolves (10-5 overall, 6-3 NSIC) led by nine after the first quarter and 12 midway through the second. But the Golden Eagles (2-11, 1-8) held NSU scoreless for over four minutes, going on a 10-2 run to make the score 30-26 at halftime.
Post's ability to collapse the defense sparked UMC's run, as she either scored or assisted on 10 of its last 12 points in the first half. The sophomore guard continued her strong play after the break with a short jumper and two contested layups in quick succession, cutting the lead to three.
"That's her M.O. and that's what she does very well," said UMC head coach Mike Roysland. "I think that's one of the reasons that they played some zone in the second half, because they wanted to keep her out of the paint."
That's what ultimately did the Golden Eagles in.
By shutting down Post, the Wolves were able to shut down the rest of her team, playing a 1-3-1 zone which included trapping every ball-handler, and on defense Minnesota Crookston couldn't stop them from getting to the line.
NSU attacked a depleted Golden Eagle frontcourt in its first game without defensive anchor Bren Fox (So., C), out due to mononucleosis, and the Wolves hit 13 of 13 free throws in the third to go up 60-43.
"I thought they did some real good things and I thought they were attacking the rim on us," Roysland said. "We had some kids who had defensive lapses. That's what ends up happening, it was just a struggle for us. Give some credit to Northern, they're a good team and they made some good things take place."
In contrast, when UMC got to the line it couldn't convert likewise. The Golden Eagles made just 11 of 21 free throws, while Northern State knocked down 20 of 24.
"I felt really kinda relieved at the end of the first half with the amount of free throws that we missed being, being only down a few," Roysland said. "Obviously our shooting percentage caught up with us in the second half. ... We're shooting a lot of free throws, maybe we're shooting too many."
As a result, the fourth quarter was all but a formality. Minnesota Crookston got within 69-55 on an Abby Guidinger (Jr., G/F) three, but in the end was faced with merely its 11th loss in 13 games.
Post scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting to lead UMC, while Guidinger added 15. Northern State had four players in double-figures scoring: Sara Tvedt (16), Joie Speier (11), Avery Terwilliger (10 and Brianna Kusler (10), who also had a double-double with 10 rebounds.
The Wolves shot 56.3 percent from the field, while the Golden Eagles hit just 39.0 of their shots.
"We just need to see more shots fall, whether it's from the field or free throw line," Post said. "We need to trust ourselves, trust our teammates and work together as a team."
UP NEXT: The Golden Eagles play Minnesota State Moorhead on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Lysaker Gymnasium.
The Dragons (12-4) are currently second in the NSIC North with a 7-2 conference record, and beat UMC 89-43 on Dec. 6 in Moorhead.
The Times welcomes your feedback. You can send any comments or questions to our office at (218) 281-2730, Jacob Shames (405) 496-0168 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow along on Twitter @CroxTimesSports and @Jacob_Shames for all the latest stories and live game updates.