Perspective came easily and instantly for USF head women’s basketball coach Travis Traphagen after USF (2-1) notched a 73-49 victory against Mayville State (6-2) Tuesday night at the Stewart Center.
All the fifth-year coach needed was one glance at the box score.
“What really jumps out to me is that we’re a really good shooting team, but if you look at the stats right now that wouldn’t show,” he said.
For the second straight contest, the Cougar offense struggled early, with the team recording more turnovers (3) than points (2) through the first four minutes of the game. USF was also just 3-for-20 (15%) from three-point range.
“I like the way we started, but sometimes instead of just shooting jump shots it’s about getting to the rim and getting fouled and doing some little things,” Traphagen added.
“We’ve just got to find our routine and our rhythm a little bit; I want to find a unit that wants to start a game, and start well.”
That's especially true of a team like this with young pieces, two junior college transfers and an enormous void left by redshirt freshman center Amber Paden (torn PCL) and senior guard Holli Aggen (arthroscopic knee surgery), who are still both out for two to three weeks.
Mayville State led USF just twice, taking a 2-0 lead with the first shot of the night and later moving in front 9-8 when Nicole Meyer set her feet and drained a three-pointer at the 14:03 mark. The Cougar offense finally found its timing, as they strung together a 15-1 run that was capped by a deep corner jumper by Alyssa Rushton, who finished with 13 points, including 12 in the first half.
USF led Mayville State 31-14 at the break, heading into the locker room off of back-to-back buckets by Rushton.
USF maintained its 17-point advantage until the midpoint of the second half, when the Cougar buckets began to rain down on the Comets. Chrissy Strassburg scored four straight points with a layup and pair of freebies to extend the Cougars’ lead to 55-34. A layup from freshman Teagan Molden gave USF its largest lead at 71-43 with less than three minutes remaining.
Traphagen emptied the bench for the duration, which allowed fans to catch a glimpse of the Cougar backcourt of the future in true freshmen Marie Malloy and Cassidy Gebhart.
The Cougars overcame another frigid night of downtown shooting thanks to a stifling defensive effort that held the Comets to just 25 percent shooting from the floor and 17.2 percent from long range—including an anemic 6.3% (1-for16) team 3-point percentage in the first half.
USF also held 6-2 Comet center Marcisa McMillan, who entered the contest shooting at a 71.4 percent clip—the best in the NAIA Division II—to 11 points on 3-for-7 shooting.
“We knew Mayville was a dangerous team and we had one goal on the board before the game, which was to control them from three-point range,” Traphagen said. “We did a good job of taking that away and did a good job on their post.”
Four Cougars hit double digits tonight, with Rushton and Jaicee Ulmer leading the way with a baker’s dozen each. Laura Johnson chipped in 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting, while Molden posted a dozen points of her own, along with four rebounds.
Mikenna Greathouse tallied six points and a game-high eight rebounds.
The Cougars won every statistical category, including a 44-38 edge on the glass. USF dominated inside, holding a 22-6 margin in points in the paint.
“There are a lot of positives we can take from this, but there’s also a lot of things that we need to work on,” Traphagen said. I’m very happy with the effort, defensively, we got a nice win and we got to play a lot of kids tonight.”
The Cougars wrap up their non-conference slate on Saturday with a 4 p.m. home tilt versus Dakota State (2-4).
Courtesy: Stephanie Pendrys, USF