Golden Eagles hang on to beat Marauders, 73-65
It just had to be difficult, didn't it?
At one point Saturday, the Minnesota Crookston women's basketball team had held a 54-40 lead against the University of Mary. But behind a slew of turnovers and missed shots, the Golden Eagles let their lead dwindle down to just three points. In the final minute, the Marauders even had a 3-point attempt to tie.
Just like UMC's previous two victories this season, this one came down to the wire. But the Golden Eagles did just enough during a third-quarter surge and down the stretch to earn a 73-65 win over the Marauders Saturday at Lysaker Gymnasium, rebounding from a 59-55 loss to UMary Friday.
"The mindset was really in the right spot here," said UMC coach Mike Roysland. "We felt that we really kind of let one slip away on Friday night and just didn't play the way that we were capable of. ... Hopefully this will boost us going forward and give us some momentum going forward. It was a really nice bounce-back."
The aforementioned mindset led to a faster-than-normal start. The Golden Eagles (3-7, 3-5 NSIC) took the lead on a 3-pointer by Emma Carpenter (So., G) to start the second quarter, and would hold it for good. They scored 23 points in the second on their way to a 36-31 halftime lead and their highest-scoring first half of the season.
UMary (2-6, 2-6) made a mini-run in the third quarter, coming within 40-37 on a Lexie Schneider layup, but the Marauders then made a fateful decision. They switched to a zone defense the next possession, and the Golden Eagles found the open spot. Mary Burke swung the ball to Jes Mertens (Fr., G), who laced a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Mertens hit Burke for a deep three on UMC's next trip down the court. Kylie Post (Jr., G) then stole the ball from Lauren Rotunda and found Burke wide open again, and the redshirt sophomore forward made it 49-37 five minutes into the second half.
UMary called timeout, and came out of the break in man-to-man defense again. Suffice to say, the Marauders didn't switch back.
"I think we just caught them off-guard," Roysland said. "... Kids did a nice job of finding the open person and distributing the ball."
The Golden Eagles' third-quarter spurt was a summation of what they did all afternoon. They knocked down eight of 14 3-pointers and assisted on over half of their baskets. Eight of the nine players that took the court got on the scoresheet, and seven players took between four and seven shots.
Minnesota Crookston worked inside and outside, getting points in the paint, outside the arc and at the free-throw line. This resulted in two players with 17 points — Burke and Mertens — and another, Carpenter, with 13.
"We played really well as a team," Mertens said. "We moved the ball around, everyone got up shots, everyone took good shots and everyone got defensive stops."
But in the fourth quarter, the Golden Eagles went over four minutes without scoring, and a Macy Williams 3-pointer capped off a 10-0 Marauder run to cut the lead to 60-57. UMC coughed up the ball four times during that span.
"You gotta give (UMary) a lot of credit," Roysland said. "But I thought we had some unforced turnovers there, kind of in a rush or a little bit of a panic. We knew they were gonna make a push back on us at some particular point or try to make a run, and that's exactly what they got."
But that stretch was mostly at odds with the other 36 minutes of the game. Burke hit a free-throw line jumper to stop the bleeding, and the Golden Eagles went 11-of-12 from the line in the final four minutes, including 10 straight at one point.
Mertens stepped to the free-throw line with 28 seconds to play. The freshman guard hit nothing but net on both of her attempts, putting UMC up by six.
"My mindset doesn't really change," she said. "I mean, all free throws are the same. If I think about it, then I start to miss."
She didn't, and with that, all the anxiety of the last eight minutes — and the Golden Eagles' three-game losing streak — was gone.
UP NEXT: The Golden Eagles host No. 8 Minnesota Duluth next weekend. The Bulldogs are the defending NSIC regular season and tournament champions, and are 5-0 this season (4-0 in conference play). They've had five games cancelled due to COVID-19 — their sweep of Northern State this weekend was their first action in three weeks.
Last January, UMC nearly shocked UMD in Duluth, but lost 68-67. The rematch in February wasn't nearly as close: the Bulldogs won 83-59.
"Duluth is one of the top teams in the country," Roysland said. "... Typically we play Duluth alright, but that's gonna be a tall task next weekend. We're there as long as we continue to improve. Hopefully we can give ourselves a better chance down the stretch."
Added Mertens: "If we keep playing as a team, we can definitely knock off Duluth."
Minnesota Crookston 13-23-20-17—73
University of Mary 14-17-14-20—65
MINNESOTA CROOKSTON STATS
- Points: Jes Mertens 17, Mary Burke 17, Emma Carpenter 13, Bren Fox 8, Kylie Post 8
- Rebounds: Jes Mertens 7, Haylee Wheeler 7, Julia Peplinski 3, Kylie Post 3
- Assists: Emma Carpenter 3, Kylie Post 3
- Steals: Jes Mertens 2, Mary Burke 2
- Blocks: Bren Fox 1, Emma Carpenter 1, Kylie Post 1
- Team: 23-49 field goals, 8-14 3-pointers, 19-23 free throws
UNIVERSITY OF MARY STATS
- Points: Lexie Schneider 21, Lauren Rotunda 16, Macy Williams 12
- Rebounds: Lexie Schneider 13, Lauren Rotunda 7, Raquel Doll 4
- Assists: Macy Williams 5, Reese Wishart 2
- Steals: Carly Kottsick 2, Lauren Rotunda 2
- Blocks: Lauren Rotunda 1
- Team: 24-58 field goals, 6-18 3-pointers, 11-16 free throws
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