The Northern State women's basketball team shot 55.6 percent in the second half and outscored Minnesota State 36-28 in the second stanza to win a 57-56 thriller over the Mavericks Monday afternoon in the semifinals of the NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament held at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
For the game, Northern shot 41.5 percent (22-for-53) from the field while holding the Mavericks to 35 percent (20-for-57) shooting. Neither team shot the ball well from three-point range as NSU (24-5) made 2-of-10 (20 percent) from beyond the arc and the Mavs (23-6) shot 2-of-14 (14.3 percent).
The Wolves struggled for much of the first half, shooting just 27 percent from the floor (7-of-26) and committed 11 of their 17 turnovers in the opening half and found themselves trailing heading into the locker room 28-21.
Trailing 37-30 with just over 14 minutes left in the game, Northern came alive offensively and went on a 22-8 run over the next seven minutes and held its biggest lead of the game at 52-45 with 6:59 left to play. A Kara Hofschild three-point play with 9:29 to play gave the Wolves a 44-41 lead, a lead they wouldn't relinquish the rest of the way.
NSU had a balanced attack during their big run as Megan Mutchler and Rachel Krogman each scored six points during that span while Hofschild and Kusler both scored five points. Five of Hofschild's six points in the game came during that stretch.
After a pair of Kusler free throws, Northern led 57-52 with 1:51 left to play. Minnesota State cut into the Wolves' lead with back-to-back buckets to trim the lead to 57-56 with 58 seconds left. After a Minnesota State block, the Mavericks had the ball with 12 seconds left to play. The NSU defense held strong the final possession as it smothered MSU's Aubrey Davis on a pair of game-winning attempts and held on for the thrilling victory.
Mutchler led the Wolves with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the win. Mutchler also added four rebounds, a block and a steal. Kusler had 15 points, seven boards, four assists and a block and a steal for the Wolves while Krogman added 11 points, all in the second half, seven rebounds and four assists. Sadie Stotesbery had an all-around solid performance for NSU, finishing with seven points, seven rebounds and a game-high five assists.
Northern held a 32-28 edge in points in the paint and also had a 36-30 advantage in rebounding. MSU scored 11 points off Northern turnovers while the Wolves scored six on 12 Maverick turnovers. The Mavs also held a 13-2 edge in bench points.
The Wolves will now face the winner of Concordia-St. Paul and Sioux Falls in the Championship of the NSIC Tournament Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Pentagon. The game will once again be aired on the Midcontinent Sports Network (channel 622) and can also be heard live on 94.1 KSDN The Rock.
The NSU Wolves Club will be holding a pregame rally for Wolves fans at Beef O'Brady's, located across the street from the Pentagon from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Tuesday. Come and get fired up for the game with Northern fans and enjoy some appetizers before the championship game.
Tickets for the game cost $15 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students.