Cougars Lose Second-Half Lead, Game To Warriors
WINONA, MN — Sioux Falls’ defensive strategy was working to perfection until Katie Wolff stepped up for Winona State
The senior scored 16 of her 23 points in the second half Saturday, and the Warriors improved to 11-3 (5-2, NSIC) with a 47-44 victory over the visiting Cougars, who fell to 6-5 and 3-4 in league play.
For the second game in a row, the Cougars struggled with turnovers (22) and from the charity stripe, where they went just 6-for-11 (54.5%).
After the Cougars took their largest lead of the game at 37-28 with 13:22 remaining in the game, Wolff scored 10 straight points, sparking a 13-0 run that put the Warriors in control. The 23 points is her season high.
Sioux Falls set its defense to prevent Wolff and classmate Becca Friestleben — the Warriors’ starting guard combo and top two threats — from getting open shots. The plan worked in the first half, as Wolff went just 3-for-8 from the floor and Friestleben was held scoreless. Friestleben, who entered the contest averaging 18.8 points, finished with only three points on 1-for-10 shooting.
The Warriors survived her off night thanks to her backcourt mate. When Wolff’s shots started falling after halftime, she got confidence and took more of them, going 6-for-12 in the second half.
Winona State is now 10-1 when holding its opponents to fewer than 60 points.
USF was coming off an emotional 70-68 win at Upper Iowa on Friday but looked sharp in the early goings and found itself up 6-2 at the 16:17 mark after a fastbreak layup by freshman guard Marie Malloy.
The Warriors opened only 2 for 7 from the field with a turnover but tied the game at 6-6 and a three-pointer by Wolff gave them their second lead of the game at 20-17 with 6:17 remaining. USF rallied to close the half on a 7-2 run and a 12-footer by Kelli Hoff put the Cougars ahead 24-22 at halftime.
USF shot 50 percent from beyond the arc in the first half, while Winona State (ranked third in the nation in three-point field goal percentage, at 42.5 percent) connected on just one of eight three-point attempts in the half.
Mikenna Greathouse opened the second half with a driving basket that gave USF a 26-22 advantage. Back-to-back treys by Alyssa Rushton and Jaicee Ulmer pushed the margin to eight points before a Teagan Molden free throw with 13 minutes remaining made it a nine point lead at 37-28, the Cougars’ biggest of the game. Wolff suddenly asserted herself and took control at that point.
Wolff had a mid-range jumper, fast break layup, a 3-pointer and a three-point play for a 10-point run that moved the Warriors in front, 38-37 with 10:59 left in the game. A USF turnover led to a WSU fastbreak layup and the Warriors led by four, 41-37. Buckets by Johnson and Chrissy Strassburg tied it at 41 and Rushton followed with a three-point play to give the Cougars the 44-41 lead with 4:28 to go.
But a costly USF turnover resulted in another easy layup for Winona State and left the Cougars clinging to a one point lead at 44-43 with under three to play.
Wolff wasn’t done yet and would put the Warrior ahead to stay. She drained the game-winner, a trey, to put the Warriors in front 46-44 with 93 seconds left in the game.
Winona State added a freebie to make it 47-44.
USF had a chance to tie, but the Warriors blocked Strassburg’s three-point attempt in the closing seconds.
Johnson finished with 13 points on 4-for-4 shooting with eight rebounds. She’s scored double-digits in 10 of 11 games this season. Greathouse chipped in eight points while Rushton had six points. Malloy scored five points in 19 minutes of action.
The Cougars shot 38 percent from the floor and finished 6-for-15 from deep (40 percent). USF edged Winona State on the glass, 38-35.
The Warriors converted 20 USF turnovers into 20 points.
Surprisingly, the Warriors, who boast the nation’s best team free throw percentage at 82.5 percent, went just 8-for-15 from the stripe (53.3 percent).
USF returns home next weekend to host Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State.
Courtesy: University of Sioux Falls