NSIC TOURNAMENT-USF Women Return To Championship With Win Over Wayne

Cougars To Face Northern In Title Tilt After 58-49 Semifinal Win

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – With stifling defense and a stellar game from senior center Sam Knecht, University of Sioux Falls Women’s Basketball battled to a 58-49 victory over Wayne State in the semifinals of the NSIC/Sanford Health Women’s Basketball Tournament. The Cougars improve to 22-7 on the season and will face the winner of Northern State and Winona State in the tournament title game at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at the Sanford Pentagon.

Knecht was about as good as she can get, scoring 26 points to go over 1,300 for her career, and do so on 12-for-17 shooting. Helping their center, USF had 13 assists with Madi Robson handing out six, Kaely Hummel finding Knecht three straight times in the third quarter for an easy bucket each time, and Alyson Johnsen assisting on two more.

The Cougars were a bit stagnant offensively in the first half, but their staunch defense kept them in the game. The Cougars trailed just 14-13 at the end of the first quarter and 26-23 at the end of the first half. Knecht was the driving force for the Cougars in the first half with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting and Hummel started each quarter with a knockdown three for six points in the first 20 minutes of action.

Hummel started the second half with her third three of the game to tie it, but five straight by Wayne State pulled them ahead five points. Knecht stopped the run with a pair of free throws before WSC answered with two foul shots of their own.

Led by Robson’s scoring surge, the Cougars erased their five-point deficit and took a brief lead late in the third quarter. Robson hit a driving layup then fed Knecht for an easy bucket all before she capped it off with a layup through contact and converted the ensuing free throw to put USF up 35-33. The Wildcats responded with their own six-point run and Robson scored again on a layup, but Wayne State held a 40-37 after the third quarter.

With five straight points, USF seized the lead back from Wayne State. Knecht stayed hot with a layup to open the quarter and Robson found Hummel streaking the floor for a layup through a foul and the following free throw put USF up 42-40, but started a brief back-and-forth between the teams. WSC hit a layup, Knecht followed with a jumper, and WSC capped it off with another layup to tie the game at 44-44.

After the tie, Knecht took over with the help of her guards. Alyson Johnsen found her for a bucket then Hummel assisted on three straight Knecht buckets to give USF a 53-46 edge on the back of a 9-2 run. With a comfortable lead, the USF defense, which limited Wayne State to 31.6 percent shooting, held WSC to five points in the final seven minutes of the game. The Cougars then were steady from the free throw line and stingy on defense to secure the 58-49 victory.

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