Mental focus was the theme of the night as the Univerisity of Minnesota, Morris women's basketball team survived an extremely physical Mayville State team, a combined 60 turnovers and 50 fouls, 27 percent shooting from the field, and a 20-minute game interruption for a 66-55 victory.
As it had been in UMM's win over Mayville two weeks ago, this was a team effort: 10 Cougars scored points. Junior guard Tara Thielke led the Cougars with 15 points. Junior post Steph Roggenbuck chipped in with eight and led the team with seven rebounds, five of those on the offensive glass.
The tone of the night was set early as the Comets put UMM in the bonus by the 13-minute mark. The Cougars capitalized by going 29 for 41 at the free-throw line. The Comets, meanwhile, would foul out five players by game's end.
Free throws late in the first half enabled the Cougars to build a seven point lead at intermission, 31-24. Senior Nikki Washek, in her first game of the season, went 6 of 8 from the stripe. Senior post Joy Heysse made 7 of 10 free throws, which would comprise all of her points for the night.
Though Mayville picked up the pressure in the second half, they would draw no closer than four points. The Comets' high intensity play led to many UMM turnovers, but it also led to poor shot selection and unforced turnovers of their own. The many stoppages in play due to Mayville fouls seemed to benefit UMM, who, led on the perimeter by junior Brandi Cresap and first-year Kelsey Erickson, handled the ball well and kept the Cougar offense in a game plan.
At the 13:36 mark, the PE Center fire alarm activated. Initially the teams and crowds remained in the gym, believing the alarm would prove to be an accident, but once this was found not to be the case, the game was delayed for 20 minutes as local fire fighters combed the building.
The break seemed to have little effect on the Cougars, who pushed their lead to 16 points after Mayville head coach Dennis Hutter was ejected at the 8:56 mark for two technical fouls.
The Comets rallied with some late points, but it was too little too late.
The Cougars now stand 3-1 this year with two conference games on the schedule this weekend at home. On Friday night they face Bethany Lutheran at 5:30 p.m. and host a matinee game against Martin Luther College on Saturday afternoon.