Amber Paden pulled up for a short jump shot, and the ball spun completely around the rim but refused to go through.
It was that kind of night for USF, which had serious trouble getting anything to fall during a brutal first half stretch.
Kaycee Charette scored 20 points for MSU-Moorhead and the Dragons pulled away to start the second half, beating the visiting Cougars 73-65 on Friday night to snap a three-game losing streak.
The Dragons (8-7, 5-6) shot 43 percent, built a 43-34 rebounding advantage and pulled away down the stretch to improve to 4-3 at home this season.
USF (8-7, 5-6) is without the services of junior forward/center Mikenna Greathouse, who was diagnosed with mononucleosis earlier in the week.
“Without Mikenna, we tried to play small but played soft for awhile,” said head coach Travis Traphagen. “We had an opportunity to take some charges that we didn’t go for and a couple of kids didn’t box out very well tonight.”
“The credit goes to Moorhead. They were a tougher team tonight,” he added.
USF kept the game close in the first half, leading by as many as five at 22-17 after a Chrissy Strassburg free throw.
When the teams went to the sidelines for the media timeout at the 7:40 mark, the Cougars were shooting 60 percent (9-for-15) to the Dragons’ 29 percent (5-for-17).
Things went south for USF in a hurry.
And while Kaycee Charette and the Dragons started to warm up, the Cougars spiraled into one of their coldest finishes to a half in recent memory.
USF ended the half 1 for 10, went more than eight minutes between field goals, and managed just one free throw and a three point basket over the final 13 1/2 minutes to trail at the break by eight points, 34-26.
All tough numbers to overcome for a team looking to bounce back from a disappointing home loss to Southwest Minnesota State on Tuesday night.
Still, USF made things interesting briefly in the second half, closing to 38-34 on Alyssa Rushton’s three-pointer with 17:14 left.
That came after back-to-back misses by MSU-Moorhead and a Dragon turnover in the backcourt. But Charette rattled in a 3-pointer on the Dragons’ next possession, and Megan Strese followed that with a left-handed hook from the side of the paint to push it to 43-34 and put the Dragons back in control.
MSU-Moorhead led by as many as 17 points midway through the second half and cruised the rest of the way. The Cougars mounted a 7-0 run in the final 38 seconds but the last-ditch rally was far too late.
“I thought our last six minutes we competed hard,” said Traphagen. “But if we can compete that hard in the final six minutes, why can’t we compete like that in our five minute game segments that we talk about?”
The Cougars were outscored in the paint 30-18— 14-4 in the second half alone.
“We can go inside and it’s almost like a turnover right now because we don’t get anything out of it when we go in the paint,” Traphagen said. “And that’s not just our posts; we post up a lot of people and we need to do a better job making shots in the paint.”
USF finished 21-for-57 from the floor (36.8%) but shot an efficient 10-for-21 from beyond the arc (47.6 %). The Cougars made 13 of 17 free throw attempts.
The Cougars' bench outscored MSU Moorhead’s reserves, 32-21. The Dragons owned a 43-34 edge on the glass and had 15 assists, led by eight from junior guard Haley Thomforde.
Both teams committed 13 turnovers.
Rushton led the Cougars with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting. Bailey Bouman went 3-for-6 from beyond the arc and scored all of her nine points in the second half. Holli Aggen and Molden had eight points apiece. Strassburg chipped in seven. Laura Johnson finished with five points and tied for game-high honors with eight rebounds
“We’re not a great basketball team right now,” Traphagen said. “We’ve got to find a way to guard and get stops in timely fashion for us to get back in basketball games, stay in basketball games or maintain leads.”
“It will be a gut check to see where we’re at tomorrow.”
USF wraps up the weekend at Northern State on Saturday with a 5 p.m. scheduled start.
Courtesy: Steph Pendrys, USF