Winona State didn’t get the game it expected, but it adjusted and won another close game over Southwest Minnesota State 71-69 on Friday at McCown Gymnasium.
WSU coach Scott Ballard expected the game to be played in the paint, but with SMSU’s 6-foot-4 center Abuk Akoi not playing and their 5-11 forward Caleigh Rodning in foul trouble most of the way, both sides relied on guard heavy lineups. And WSU guard Gabie Doud took advantage.
“We practiced for two days, preparing for their big kid that usually starts, but the game was almost all guards,” Ballard said. “We had to play small lineups to match up with what they were doing. It was a different style of game.”
Doud led the Warriors (9-8, 7-6) with 27 points and took over the second half. She scored 20 of the Warriors’ 32 points after the break including seven of their first nine. And she was instrumental in weathering a Mustangs comeback bid in the third quarter.
SMSU (8-10, 5-8) opened the third quarter on a 12-2 run that cut a 38-25 WSU halftime lead down to a one-score game, 40-37. But Doud ended the drought, making a layup to get the Warriors back on the board and keep the Mustangs at arm’s reach going into the fourth.
“Gabie played great offensively for us and drew some big charges,” Ballard said. “And Taylor (Hustad) got two big offensive rebounds off missed free throws late that gave us an extra possession. Kieck played remarkably well with a sore left hand.”
Doud kept the scoring up into the fourth, scoring WSU’s first six points of the quarter as they traded baskets with SMSU. Every time the Warriors scored, SMSU answered right back — from 50-45 all the way up to 61-55. The Warriors finally scored consecutive baskets at the 4:04 mark. After Doud made a free throw, Kieck drove in for a layup to give the Warriors 64-55 lead.
The 3-pointer kept the Mustangs in the game as the Warriors kept trying and failing to close the door. Jenna Borchers made a 3 with 2:21 to cut WSU’s lead to 67-60. Emily Reinhart made a 3 to make 68-63 with 1:24 to go. Emily Buysse made a 3 to make it 70-66 with a minute to go. And Sadie Selter made a 3 to make it a one-point game 70-69 with 15 seconds to go.
After Selter’s 3, Julia Silloway received the inbounds pass and drew a foul, but missed both free throws. SMSU’s Jenna Borcher drove the length of the floor and attempted a circus layup with a second to go. Doud grabbed the rebound, got fouled, and made one of two free throws, giving the Mustangs a shot at a three-quarter court shot with 0.8 seconds. But Doud blocked the shot and the Warriors hung on.
“I’m proud of our resiliency,” Ballard said. “We did just enough to win. You take it and you wipe your brow and you get ready for the next one.”
The Warriors built a cushion in the second quarter as they outscored the Mustangs 20-9. SMSU shot just 25 percent for the quarter while WSU shot 44. The Warriors finished the quarter on an 8-0 run with Allie Pickrain scoring six of the eight points and Emily Kieck scoring the other two.
“We had some more size in there in the second quarter and we weren’t in foul trouble,” Ballard said. “But with Rachel getting two quick fouls in the second quarter and another one right away in the third quarter and having to go with guards, your biggest concern is rebounding. But the rebounding was close.”
Kieck scored 17 points, while Kayla Schaefer scored 12, and Pickrain scored 11.
Winona State went to the free throw line 33 times, but shot just 54.5 percent — well below its season mark of 71. But it shot above its season mark from the floor, making 42 percent of its field goal tries.
The Mustangs made 10 of 35 3-point tries, led by Reinhart who was 4-for-5. Reinhart led SMSU with 15 points, while Erin Baxter scored 13, Rodning scored 12 and Stelter scored 10.
The Warriors are back in action on Saturday as they host Sioux Falls (13-6, 8-5).