The Minot State University women's basketball team isn't exactly easing into its post-holiday schedule.
After a long layoff, the Beavers host No. 14 Wayne State tonight and No. 13 Augustana on Saturday, the highest-ranked teams in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
MSU (8-2 overall, 4-2 NSIC) is in a four-way tie for first in the NSIC North, but all four ranked conference teams are from the South Division.
"I think there's a stigma that that's the way it is," MSU coach Sheila Green Gerding said of the South's supposed superiority. "We've been in the league long enough to know better. Right now we just wanna go out and do our best to beat the teams that come in here. We don't really care where they're from."
Senior forward Carly Boag said the Beavers are confident they can play with both teams.
"They are ranked but we can beat them," said the 6-foot-2 Boag, who leads the Beavers with 22 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. "They're the ones who have the pressure on them to win, so we don't have anything to lose."
Wayne State (12-1, 5-1) beat Augustana before Christmas but is still ranked behind the Vikings (7-3, 3-3) because the polls haven't been updated since then.
Jordan Spencer, a 5-11 junior forward, leads the Wildcats with 19.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Four other WSC players score at least eight points per outing.
"She posts hard, she uses her body well and she's really aggressive," Green Gerding said of Spencer. "She's a load to handle in there."
Green Gerding said the Wildcats' matchup zone defense is unlike any the Beavers will face all season.
"You can't attack it like a true zone and your man-to-man stuff isn't gonna work as well as it does against a man-to-man, so it's gonna present some problems," she said. "We just gotta hopefully execute some things we've been working on all week."
Before the break, the Beavers responded from their first two losses of the season with an 82-74 win at the University of Mary.
Junior guard Morgan Klose poured in a career-high 27 points and senior point guard Alisha "Speedy" Jones racked up a career-high 10 assists. All five MSU starters are averaging double figures in points.
"It helps us a lot when our guards can shoot outside consistently because teams won't be able to double- and triple-team Carly down low," senior forward Katie Hardy said. "If everyone else outside is clicking, too, we're gonna leave Carly in the post one-on-one all night and no one can stop her when she gets down there."
The Beavers know they need a balanced effort if they want to get a signature win - or two - this weekend.
"This weekend's a big weekend just because they are ranked," Hardy said. "But like coach said at the end of practice, we have nothing to lose. We have everything to gain and I think we're just as good, if not better than these two teams."
Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.