Wildcat women split NSIC weekend road trip

Austin Svehla, Assistant Sports Editor

Wayne State women’s basketball came away with a 1-1 weekend road trip this past weekend as the Wildcats were defeated by MSU Moorhead on Friday 71-57 but rebounded for a 60-56 victory on Saturday against Northern State. The Wildcats are now 12-6 on the season (7-5 NSIC), which is tied for third in the NSIC South standings.

On Friday, WSC stormed out of the gates to grab a 7-2 lead just 1:46 into the game. From there, NSIC South-leading Moorhead went on an 11-0 run to take a 13-7 lead with just under six minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Wildcats then burst for a run of their own, outscoring the Dragons 11-2 the remainder of the first quarter to take an 18-15 advantage.

After a back and forth start to the second quarter, sophomore Erin Norling tied the game at 26-26 by converting a three-point play with 5:14 remaining in the quarter. After Norling’s three-point play, Moorhead went on a 10-2 run to end the half for a 36-28 lead at the break.

“[Moorhead] played good defense and they rebound well,” head coach Brent Pollari said. “We shot the ball really poor too. We shot 33 percent from the field and some of that has to do with their defense, but we had some pretty good looks too.”

After facing a 50-34 deficit, the Wildcats managed to pull within nine of the Dragons behind 52-43 headng into the fourth quarter, but Moorhead put together a 15-2 run to start the fourth for a 67-45 lead to put the game out of reach in an eventual 71-57 final. The loss dropped the Wildcats to 11-6 on the season.

“When you’re on the road and you’re playing the number one team in the conference, it’s going to be a little tougher and they made get a little tighter, but I actually thought we played pretty well and pretty hard,” Pollari said.

Norling lead the Wildcats in scoring with 20 points on the evening. Senior Andrea Larson had nine points and sophomore Brittany Bongartz added eight.

Saturday produced a different result for WSC, as the Wildcats defeated Northern State by a final of 60-56 in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

The Wildcats trailed the entire first quarter, accumulating six turnovers through the game’s first ten minutes, leading to a 20-17 deficit at the end of one.

An 11-0 run to start the second quarter gave WSC a 28-20 at the midway point of the second quarter. Stifling defense from the Wildcats held the Wolves to just six points in the second quarter, giving WSC a 33-26 lead at the half.

“With the quick turnaround between games in the NSIC, our team was forced to bounce back quickly on Saturday after our tough loss against Moorhead,” Norling said. “Against Northern, we played very good defense, forcing them to take rushed shots late in the shot clock. Our offense exploited their weaknesses very well.”

The third quarter was a back and forth affair, as the Wildcats held their largest lead of the game at 39-32. The Wolves pulled within two points on multiple occasions, but the quarter ended with WSC holding a 48-45 lead.

With just under seven minutes remaining in the game, Northern State took their first lead since early in the second quarter on a Brianna Kusler jumper for a 51-50 lead.

The fourth quarter was a similar back and forth theme, as freshman Kylie Hammer knotted the game at 55 apiece on a free throw with 1:29 remaining. Bongartz put the Wildcats ahead on a pair of free throws with 43 seconds to go to give WSC a 57-55 lead. The Wildcats secured the victory late, thwarting Northern State’s attempt to tie the game before converting on the game-clinching free throws for victory number 12 on the season.

Norling was again the leading scorer for WSC, notching 16 points, followed by Bongartz with 15. The Wildcats were 16 of 21 at the free throw line on the evening, converting six of their eight attempts in the last 90 seconds of the game.

“Our team is very unselfish, and we share the ball well on offense,” Norling said. “This makes us hard to defend, so we score quite a few points, and it allows a lot of different players to score.”

Despite the balanced scoring, Norling is the Wildcat most often found at the top of the stat sheet when it comes to scoring with 14.9 points per game on average. The sophomore has started all 18 games to this point in the season for WSC and leads the ’Cats on the season in steals (38) and minutes (34 per game).

“Our offense has been running smoothly in our recent games, allowing me to get a lot of open shots,” Norling said. “Our team just shares the basketball very well and my teammates put me in great position to score in games.”

WSC returns to Rice Auditorium for a 3:30 matchup on Saturday against Minnesota State (6-10) and a 1:30 matchup on Sunday against Concordia-St. Paul (13-4). The Wildcats are currently two games behind CSP, who sits in second place in the NSIC South.

“I think we’ve got to rebound the ball better,” Pollari said. “It will be two big games, but I think rebounding will be the key. Ideally, we want to be one of the top four teams in the south, so we can host a playoff game. So that’s kind of what we’re battling and fighting for.”