SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KWSN) – The USF women’s basketball team was on the verge of pulling an upset over No. 20 Minnesota State at the Stewart Center on Friday night as they held a ten-point lead at the end of the first half, but a second half where the Mavericks shot 54.5% erased the Cougars lead and gave Minnesota State an 82-72 victory.
With the loss, USF falls to 12-13 overall and 8-13 in the NSIC while Minnesota State improves to 20-5 on the season and 17-4 in league play.
Taylor Varsho, who led all scorers with 21 points, spurred the Cougars offensive burst in the first-half as she scored 16 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Varsho gave the Cougars their biggest lead of the half when she made a layup with 1:25 left to play in the first half.
Ali Wilkinson led the Mavericks on offense as she scored 20 points (8-of-11 FG) while only playing 20 minutes of the game due to foul trouble in the first half. Wilkinson also grabbed five rebounds for the Mavericks as they grabbed eight more rebounds than the Cougars.
The Cougars defense was the story of the first half as they held Minnesota State to only 33 points and 34.2% field goal shooting. The Cougars defensive pressure extended to the three-point line as MSU went 2-of-11 (18.2%) from behind the arc in the first half. USF also forced eight first half turnovers and were led again by Varsho who recorded three steals in the first 20 minutes of action.
After trailing by 12 points with just under 18 minutes left in the game, the Mavericks used a 24-3 run to give themselves a 9-point lead with 11:30 remaining. During the nearly seven-minute dry spell, the Cougars went 1-of10 from the field and also committed five turnovers.
Neither team made its living at the charity stripe as the teams combined to shoot 39 free-throws. The Cougars went 10-of-17 (58.8%) from the line while MSU made 12 of their 22 (54.5%) free-throw attempts.
Alicia Boe made the most of her second career start as she scored ten points, seven of which came in the first half. Laura Johnson finished the night two rebounds short of a double-double as she dropped ten points and grabbed eight rebounds for USF. Johnson also did a great job of getting her teammates involved as she dished out four dimes.
The Cougar women have locked up the number five seed in the South Division for the NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament, but their opponent in next Wednesday’s game has yet to be determined. The Cougars will travel to face the number four seed in the North Division which will be either St. Cloud State or MSU Moorhead. A St. Cloud State victory paired with a MSU Moorhead loss to U-Mary will send the Cougars to face the Huskies while any other result will have USF travelling to Moorhead to take on the Dragons.
The Cougars will look to snap their five game losing streak in their home finale as they play host to Concordia-St. Paul at the Stewart Center with tipoff slated for 4 p.m. The Cougars will also be honoring the three-seniors who will be playing their final game at the Stewart Center.
Courtesy: University of Sioux Falls