The University of Minnesota, Morris women's basketball team closed out 2009 with an 85-57 loss to Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall Thursday, Dec. 17.
After facing two nationally ranked NAIA teams, the Cougars squared off against the Division II Mustangs, who boasted a 5-3 record with a win over No. 23 Hillsdale College earlier this season.
From the opening minutes, the Cougars struggled to contend with the Mustang size inside. Southwest started two 6-2 posts who towered inside: Abby Kenealy and Laura Kramer. On the perimeter, the Mustang guards pressed full court, forcing turnovers and making it difficult for the Cougars to create open shots.
By the 12:24 mark, the Mustangs had opened a 21-4 lead.
Head coach Tim Grove called a timeout and chided his players for playing too tentative. He exhorted them to run the offense more deliberately.
The timeout speech led to some quick baskets when play resumed, but the Cougars could draw no closer. At halftime the Mustangs led 41-15.
First half points in the paint told the story. The Mustangs outscored UMM 26-2. The Cougars committed 17 turnovers.
The intermission helped the Cougars regroup. While they still struggled to stop the Mustangs defensively, the offense was noticeably crisper and more effective. Guard Jenni Noordmans scored a flurry of baskets early and finished the game with a team-high 12 points.
The Cougars played nearly even in the second half, due in large part to their improved rebounding. In spite of the Mustangs' height advantage, the rebounding advantage was only 35-33. Forward Steph Roggenbuck and guard Kelsey Erickson paced UMM with five boards apiece.
The Cougars' were steady at the foul line making 21 of 24, most of those coming in the second half as their increased aggressiveness drew contact and fouls from Southwest.
The Cougar women drop to 5-3 on the season. They take a long break for the holidays, and resume play on Jan. 4 at Valley City State