SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (USF) – Maria Syzmanski scored a season-high 23 points to lead the No. 13 University of Sioux Falls Women’s Basketball Team (22-3, 15-3 NSIC) to a 66-46 win over Minnesota State Moorhead (16-9, 11-7 NSIC) in Northern Sun Conference cross divisional play at the Stewart Center on Saturday (Feb. 8).
With its fourth straight win, the Cougars improved their DII-program best start to 22-3 with an equally top league mark through 18 games of 15-3. With four games to play, the Cougars have clinched at least a tie for the NSIC South Division title. USF, which moved to 6-5 against MSUM all-time, sit second overall in the NSIC and a game behind Minnesota Duluth.
Szymanski, who moved her career point total to 1,094, had her first 20-point game of the season and her 11th as a member of the USF program. With 23 points, she had her 53rd double-digit point game of her career. Szymanski, a senior from Pulaski, Wisc., hit 8-of-10 field goals, which included 3-of-4 from three-point range as she pushed her career total in made threes to 162. Additionally, Szymanski was 4-of-6 at the foul line while grabbing two rebounds with a steal.
USF also had double-digit points from senior Kaely Hummel who had 13 points, three rebounds and two assists. Hummel, who has 88 double-digit scoring games in her career, hit 3-of-5 from three-point range and has 258 triples in her career. Hummel, who now has 1,628 career points (4th all-time at USF), is just one three away from tying USF’s all-time leader Laura Johnson, who had 259 from 2010-14.
“I am very happy with the way we played defensively. To hold an outstanding team like MSUM to 46 points is a great effort,” said 12th-year USF Head Coach Travis Traphagen, who earned his 239th career win and now has led his sixth team at USF to 22 wins or more. “We put them on the line too much in the first half but we challenged our kids and they responded. We found our rhythm in the second half and I think we rose to the occasion. Offensively, we were really sharp in the final two quarters,” said Traphagen, whose team will try to clinch the South Division outright when they face Winona State on Friday (Feb. 14) in Winona, Minn., before facing Upper Iowa on Saturday, Feb. 15.
After trailing 26-24 at halftime, USF outscored MSUM, 21-9, in the third quarter and 21-11 in the fourth quarter for a 42-20 advantage in the second half. The Cougars, which hit 23-of-54 shots for 42.6 percent for the game, made 15-of-25 shots for 60 percent in the final two quarters, which offset some early shooting struggles in the first half.
Despite being outrebounded, 41-29, the Cougars once again put the defensive clamps on an opponent and limited the Dragons to 26.9 percent shooting (14-of-52) while forcing 14 turnovers which resulted in a 7-of-3 edge in points off turnovers. USF had seven steals and three blocks in holding their second straight opponent under 60 points and the third team under 50 this season.
USF, which ranks sixth in DII in assist-turnover radio, had just four turnovers and dished 10 assists on 23 made baskets. The Cougars again had a strong perimeter game by hitting 8-of-16 shots for 50 percent. The Cougars also was 12-of-19 from the foul line. MSUM, which made just 4-of-16 from three-point range, hit 14-of-20 free throws. They were led by Madi Green and Peyton Boom who each scored 10 points.
Through the opening two quarters, the Cougars struggled with 27.6 percent shooting as they made just eight of 29 field goals, including misses of several at point blank range. Down 26-24 at the break, USF also hit 4-of-8 from three-point range and only 4-of-8 at the foul line. MSUM, which had a 25-12 rebound edge, made 7-of-22 field goals for 31.8 percent and were 3-of-8 from three but 9-of-10 at the foul line as they rallied to take the halftime lead.
Hummel and Goodhope hit triples as USF took an 11-7 lead with 2:22 to play in the first quarter. After MSUM worked into a tie, Szymanski scored on her first of several drives into the paint on the night. With her basket, USF was able to take a 13-11 lead into the first quarter break.
Early in the second quarter, Szymanski, who led USF with nine points in the first half, hit a jumper for a 15-11 margin (9:30). Later Geer (6:45) made a three for a 20-14 lead over the Dragons. With a free throw from Goodhope, the Cougars took a 24-22 advantage (3:06). However, MSUM outscored USF 4-2 down the stretch of the second quarter to take the 26-24 lead to halftime.
With a basket from Kiara James, the Cougars tied the game at 26 with 8:30 to play in the third quarter. And that early basket opened the gates for USF offensively and provided confidence. Szymanski and Hummel dialed up from deep with triples as USF opened the second half on an 9-0 run and moved into a 33-26 lead over MSUM at the 6:18 mark.
After MSUM closed within 34-31, USF had the answer. First, Szymanski hit a three and then a lay-up as USF took a 41-33 lead. The 11-4 run also include a Szymanski lay-up for a 45-35 lead through three quarters. USF, which hit 7-of-11 field goals and 3-of-5 from deep in the third quarter, outscored, MSUM, 21-9, to take the double-digit lead.
USF’s momentum was clear and it continued in the fourth quarter. USF hit 8-of-14 shots for 57.1 percent and added 4-of-5 field goals as they had a 21-11 margin in the fourth quarter to earn a 20-point win over the third place team from the NSIC North. The margin began with another big USF run as the Cougars rattled over a 9-2 advantage with Hummel’s three providing USF with a 54-37 lead with 5:51 to play.
USF opened the fourth quarter on a 9-2 run with Hummel’s three giving USF a 54-37 lead (5:51), which was USF’s largest lead to that point. Two free throws from Hummel and another from Szymanski helped USF to a 63-43 advantage at the 2:46 mark. MSUM simply had no answer and never drew any closer than 17 points (63-46, :46, 4th quarter) the rest of the way.