USF Women Edge Winona On Banner Day

Cougars Unveil NSIC Championship Banner After 52-51 Win

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – There is an old axiom, “defense wins championships.” And, it appears the University of Sioux Falls Women’s Basketball Team is taking that to heart, pulling off an important 52-51 NSIC home victory over Winona State on Saturday.

The victory pulled USF (12-2, 8-2 NSIC) into a tie for first place in the NSIC South at 8-2 with the Warriors.  The Cougars also moved to 9-0 at home after a weekend sweep.
The victory was a milestone for USF head basketball coach Travis Traphagen, who recorded career win 168, which moved him into first place on USF’s all-time wins list (Katie Dailey, 167).

“This was a great example of what work on the defensive end gets when you commit to it,” said Traphagen, whose team held two opponents this weekend to a combined 93 points. “We really played hard down the stretch. We really defended them at the end. While our offense wasn’t there this weekend, we were able to pull out victories because of the commitment this team has made on defense,” noted Traphagen.

While USF did not place any players in double digits, it was a night when defense was the story of the game. The Cougars forced 14 turnovers, recorded seven steals and had four blocks while putting together a 14-4 advantage in edge on turnovers. USF led, 16-13 after one quarter, and led lead 31-25 at halftime. USF was outscored, 12-11 in the third quarter and 14-10 in the fourth quarter but the first half edge was just enough.

The one-point victory was a little solace for USF, which a year ago lost a one-point decision (60-59) at home to WSU. On this night, a steal by Jacey Huinker and lay-up by Madi Robson with 1:24 to play gave the Cougars a 52-51 lead. Then, USF held off WSU on two straight possessions to take the win.

USF, which had just seven turnovers, was led in scoring by Huinker and Brooke Smith, who both had nine points. Hunker also had four rebounds and a steal while Smith added seven boards, four steals and two assists. Robson provided seven points, seven assists and three rebounds.

Overall, the Cougars hit 19-of-51 field goals for 37.3 percent, including 6-of-21 from three point range and 8-of-12 from the foul line. While WSU won the rebound battle, 36-28, they were able to hit just 20-of-52 shots for 38.5 percent. They were just 4-of-14 from three point range and 7-of-8 from the foul line.

In the opening half, the Cougars jumped to a 5-2 out of the gate and held the lead throughout the first quarter. Consecutive jumpers by Knecht provided USF with a 12-6 with 3:19 to play. The Cougars built a 16-8 advantage after two free throws from Andi Mataloni but WSU scored the final five points, all by Liz Evenocheck, to draw within 16-13 at the quarter break.

Both team’s defense took over early in the second quarter, before WSU took a 17-16 lead on a pair of free throws by Kayla Schaefer. Howeve,r Mariah Szymanski, who had eight points, including two three pointers, answered as the Cougars retook the lead at 19-17. While WSU tied the game a minute later at 19, the Cougars controlled the rest of the half, taking a 26-23 lead on a jumper by Jacey Huinker, who had seven points to lead USF in the first half. At 1:16, Mataloni connected from distance and then a sweet pass from Robson to Huinker with four seconds left gave USF a 31-25 lead over the Warriors.

After WSU pulled within 33-30 (8:42) of the third quarter, the Cougars scored five straight to take a 38-30 lead with 5:09 to play. Later, Moira Duffy converted a pair of free throws for a 42-34 advantage. However, like the end of the second quarter, WSU finished strong, cutting the lead to 42-37 at the break.

In this defensive battle, offense was going to be tough. The play in the fourth quarter showed just that. While the Warriors outscored USF, 14-10, they couldn’t grab more than a one-point lead which came late at 51-50 with 2:03 to play. Before that, the Cougars had opened up a 50-41 advantage at the 5:18 mark when Smith knocked in a free throw. With a 10-0 run the Warriors had the lead. But after two missed foul shots, the Cougars made offense through its defense when Robson stole the ball from Hannah McGlone and converted a lay-up with 1:24 to play.

Over the final 84 seconds, USF had a chance to extend the margin and WSU had the chance to take the lead. However, Robson’s play held up as Jenny Tuttle’s jumper with three seconds was off line and Huinker grabbed the rebound as the clock hit zero.

Next up for the Cougars will be a road trip to Bemidji State on Jan. 13 and a game at Minnesota Crookston on Jan. 14.

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