Tough defense and an efficient offense propelled Sioux Falls (7-5, 4-4 NSIC) to an 83-78 win over Minnesota-Duluth Friday night at the Stewart Center in front of a crowd of 713 fans.
Mikenna Greathouse and Laura Johnson combined for 39 points, but nine Cougars in all scored at least two as the bench accounted for 30 points. Junior Chrissy Strassburg highlighted the defensive effort with three steals and also contributed nine points, four assists and two rebounds.
The Cougars got off to a fast start, connecting on six of their first eight attempts, and led 15-6 five and a half minutes into the game after back-to-back buckets by Greathouse. She followed with a layup to give USF a 17-6 advantage at the 12:49 mark.
The Bulldogs (8-4, 5-3 NSIC) picked up the pace and went on a 17-9 run to trim the deficit to three points, 26-23 with less than three minutes remaining in the half. The Cougars responded by draining three of four consecutive three-point attempts and the last of the daggers made it a 35-27 USF lead with 45 seconds to play.
The USF bench outscored UMD’s reserves 16-3 in the first half. The Cougars shot 52 percent from the floor and went 5-for-7 from beyond the arc (71.4%).
After the Cougars went into the halftime break leading 37-29, the teams played more evenly in the second half as they traded layups before two straight USF turnovers kept a short run alive for UMD as Katrina Newman converted from the right block after a free throw to make it a 39-36 game. Johnson continued to play dominant minutes, taking a pass from Strassburg for a three pointer. Strassburg then swiped a steal on the Bulldogs' next possession and dished it to Greathouse, who fought off a challenge from the chasing defender to muscle the ball up for a layup. Jaicee Ulmer scored five straight on a putback and a three-point play after harassing the Bulldogs into another turnover and the Cougars led by 11, 49-38, with 15:28 on the clock.
Down 68-50 with 6:25 left in the game, the Bulldogs began hitting a flurry of shots powered by hitting 10-of-12 from the stripe, steals and transition defense to cut the lead to five at one point. However, they could not overcome the early hole and the Cougars provided enough offense to hold on for the five point victory.
The Cougars' aggressive defense locked in on the 3-point arc to stymie the Bulldog offense throughout the game. UMD entered the night taking 13.6 3-pointers per game and hitting an average of 4.4, only to be held to 2-of-19 from distance by USF. The Cougars turned 15 UMD turnovers into 19 points and out-rebounded the Bulldogs 41-39.
USF continues to struggle with turnovers. The Bulldogs converted 25 Cougar miscues into 22 points.
USF shot 50.8 percent (30-59) in the contest. Greathouse led USF with 21 points off the bench on 10-for-12 shooting, while Johnson was close behind with 18 and also pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season. Alyssa Rushton and Ulmer added 12 points a piece and Holli Aggen handed out five assists to go with her five points and seven rebounds.
The Cougars will host St. Cloud State (11-1, 7-1 NSIC) tomorrow at 4 p.m.