Cougar women move into second place
Two road wins move the University of Minnesota, Morris women's basketball team into second place in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, trailing Northland by a full game. The Cougars now stand at 6-1 in the conference and 10-6 overall.
Crown College 40
The Cougars started the weekend by defeating Crown College 75-40 in St. Bonifacius Friday night.
The Cougars took advantage of 20 first-half turnovers by Crown and 14 points from guard Nikki Washek to build a 50-18 halftime margin.
Washek scored her 1,000th career college point in the game. She scored her first 592 points for North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, N.D., and the next 408 for the Cougars after transferring last season.
Washek came into the game with 986 career points. The milestone mark came on a three-point shot from the left wing with 8:52 left in the first half.
Head coach Tim Grove called for a 30-second timeout after the basket.
"We just wanted to take a moment to recognize her accomplishment. The Crown P.A. made an announcement," said Grove. "We were all really happy for Nikki."
Twelve of 13 Cougars scored points and the entire team played at least six minutes in the contest. Steph Roggenbuck and Washek paced UMM with 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Pressure defense by UMM and six Crown turnovers in the first five minutes set the tone as the Cougars jumped out to a 17-3 lead by the 14-minute mark.
"We did a good job getting after them in half court defense," said Grove. "We were able to sneak into the passing lanes and come up with steals.
Leading 25-7 midway through the first half, UMM went on a 23-11 run over the next seven minutes to push the lead to 30.
The Cougars shot 50 percent in the first half, making 20 of 40 attempts, an astounding number when you consider that the most shots UMM has attempted in one half this season was just 34 (last Tuesday against North Central).
The Cougars pulled back into a 2-3 zone for the second half and the reserves played significant minutes, running the UMM lead to as much as 39 before closing out for the 75-40 victory.
UMM outrebounded Crown 50-31, and committed just 16 turnovers to the 29 by the Purple Storm.
Led by first-year player Emily Mehr's 18 points, the Cougars used clutch free-throw shooting in the second half to earn an upset win over Northwestern College in St. Paul Saturday.
After no free-throw attempts in the first half, the Cougars made 23 of 27 down the stretch to keep the first-place Eagles at bay for a 70-62 win.
Coming into the game, the Cougars knew the key to victory would be keeping the game away from Katie DeWitt who leads the UMAC with 22.6 points per game and is second in rebounding with nearly nine per contest.
In the early going, defense ruled the tempo as both teams struggled to find good shots.
Grove went to his bench early and often, keeping his players fresh. Ten Cougars played 14 minutes or more on the night.
Mehr and senior Joy Heysse had some early success in the paint, each of them picking up a pair of baskets as UMM clung to a two-point lead.
Mehr's early scoring work earned her praise from Grove after the game.
"Emily really got us going with some early threes. She commanded the ball inside and made some great post moves. It was as physical as I've seen her play this year," he said.
The teams continued to trade scores past the midway point when DeWitt began to assert herself. After sinking four free throws and two field goals, she extended Northwestern's lead to four.
The Cougars' Steph Roggenbuck answered with two of her own to tie the game at 24.
Junior Jenni Noordmans closed the first half with a three-pointer with five seconds remaining to give UMM a 27-26 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Cougars churned out to a slim lead early as Northwestern collected several early fouls that put UMM in the bonus with 13 minutes left to play.
DeWitt continued to pile up points, but UMM answered every charge. Mehr made several baskets midway through the half to keep the Cougars on pace. UMM led 44-40 with 9:30 to play.
In succession, Roggenbuck, Brandi Cresap, Mehr, Kara Norris, Diane Blommel and Kelsey Erickson all connected on free-throw pairs to keep UMM moving forward.
An inside basket from Norris ran the Cougars' lead to 58-50 with four minutes to play.
Northwestern cut the lead to 61-58 with two minutes to go, but they missed key shots down the stretch, while the Cougars continued to pile up points from the charity stripe.
After DeWitt missed a three pointer with :51 remaining, Washek grabbed the rebound and was promptly fouled. She made both free throws to extend the lead to 65-58 and another two on the next possession.
The Cougars would ride out the clock to seal the 70-62 win.
DeWitt scored 30 points and grabbed 14 boards, but no other Northwestern player made double digits.
The Cougars won the battle of turnovers, committing only 16 to Northwestern's 22, and dished out 14 assists compared to the Eagles' seven.
"Our defense was the key tonight," said Grove. "This week we talked about playing their personnel and not letting them take shots they want to take. I think we held them to two three-pointers which is exactly what we wanted to do. We forced them into shots we were comfortable with them taking