by LAUREN LOTT
From The Winonan, WSU’s student newspaper
The Winona State University women’s basketball dominated this weekend, winning both conference games against Minot State University on Friday and University of Mary on Saturday.
Winona State came out with energy on Friday against the Beavers as they won the game 84-46.
The Warriors had an early 14-point lead, having a successful first quarter. From there they continued to shoot well above their season average.
“Six different people hit three’s tonight,” head coach Scott Ballard said. “Shooting the ball well makes it a lot easier that’s for sure.”
Sophomore Allie Pickrain got the offense moving as she scored three three-point shots in a row in the first quarter.
“Allie got us going and it got contagious and carried over to a lot of people so it was fun, it was a fun game,” coach Ballard said.
Pickrain went on to score 23-points and a career best seven three-pointers.
“I’m so happy for her because it has been a struggle for her majority of the season this year,” Ballard said. “I know a lot of it is confidence and part of it is how people are defending her, but it was fun to see her get it going.”
This game was a team effort as Gabie Doud nailed a three-pointer at the end of the half, and was joined in the third period by Julia Silloway, Pickrain and Jenna Bruss all making threes as well.
“Playing that well as a team feels really good going into tomorrow with a better team,” Pickrain said.
The Warriors were not only successful on offense, they also kept the top scorers on the Beavers to 15 points combined.
“We really played them hard, their three starting guards were all averaging 13-14 points a piece and they scored 15 points combined tonight,” coach Ballard said. “We really defended well, we rebounded well, we took care of the ball well, we had 10 turnovers and we played everybody so it was just a great team effort all around.”
The Warriors made some adjustments in their defensive game plan this weekend to face these two teams.
“We actually struggled with it the last two days. We normally don’t have our fives, our ‘bigs,’ go out there and switch, but we felt like we had to against this team to keep those three guards from turning the corner and getting in the lane so they could kick it out to each other for three, so it worked. And I am proud of them for as much as we struggled with it in practice the last few days, and then today in shoot-around it looked really good, but they were focused and understood the game plan and executed it well. So it gave them confidence as the game went along,” Ballard said.
The Warriors scored a season-high 84 points, 30 field goals and 15 three-point shots in the victory.
When asked about his thoughts going in to the University of Mary game Ballard said, “We are confident, but we are probably playing the most talented team in the league tomorrow. They have the most size, they have preseason player of the year in the north division, they have the top two leading scorers and rebounders in the league.”
Although they are a talented team, Ballard was confident with what he saw on Friday night.
“They’re talented so they are going to be a big challenge for us, but they present a different challenge for us on boards and scoring in the lane,” Ballard said. “It was good to see us knocking down some threes tonight because that can stretch the defense out a little bit, kind of neutralize the size, so we’ll see.”
Pickrain was also confident in the team heading into the more difficult game.
“I feel good. I think our team feels good,” Pickrain said. “Obviously winning by that much and everyone hitting shots, we hit a really good percentage from the three-point line, I think that’s also our season high from the three-point line so I just hope that we stroke it like that tomorrow and I think it really will help our game, considering that we are more of a defensive team than an offensive team right now, but I think we are headed in the right direction.”
The Warriors’ confidence carried over as they won their fifth-straight home game against University of Mary on Saturday, 57-54.
“I thought it was a very ugly game offensively because both teams played hard on defense and were allowed to get physical with cutters, ball handlers and post players,” Ballard said.
Pickrain (22 points) and Emily Kieck (21) were an unstoppable duo on offense, while the Winona State defense were able to hold one of the top scorers in the NSIC to only 11 points.
“We are playing the same defense we have all year but had to make some adjustments based on their personnel to try and contain their best post player, shooter and point guard,” Ballard said. “They had a big size advantage on us but we did a great job out rebounding them.”
The Warriors had a 36-22 rebounding edge, with 10 offensive boards which led to 12 second-chance points. Rachel Novotny got 11 rebounds while Doud recorded eight.
The Warriors carried the same energy from Friday, nailing 5-7 shots from beyond the arc to pull them in front in the second quarter. Although it was a close match for the entire game, once the Warriors got the lead in the second quarter they were able to hold it for the rest of the game.
The stands were at the edge of their seats as Winona and Mary traded shots at the end of the game. The Warriors seemed to pull ahead for good with a couple free throws by Pickrain putting them in the lead 55-51 with 15 seconds left on the clock, but were answered with a three-point shot from the Marauders. Another two free throws by Pickrain finally cemented the win for the Warriors.
“Winning both games this weekend improved our chances to secure a home playoff game but a lot of things could change with four games remaining on the regular schedule,” coach Ballard said. “It’s fun to be playing well and have a lot to play for this time of the year.”
These two wins put the Warriors at a record of 13-9 (11-7 NSIC).
Winona will travel to University of Sioux Falls on Friday, February 15, and Southwest Minnesota State University on Saturday, February 16, for two more conference showdowns.