MSU women can’t complete upset bid, fall 74-65

Garrick Hodge/MDN Minot State's Maddie Wald (3) drives to the lane during a women's college basketball game Saturday in Aberdeen.

ABERDEEN — Two straight single-digit road losses against the top two teams in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division is a significant sign of improvement for the MSU women’s basketball team.

When the Beavers played MSU Moorhead and Northern State at home earlier in the year, they lost by 19 and 21 points, respectively.

After falling to Moorhead 71-68 Friday, MSU led No. 19 Northern State after three quarters Saturday in Aberdeen, but couldn’t find a way to pull off an upset, losing 74-65.

“I’m really proud of our ladies,” MSU coach Mark Graupe said. “At the start of the year, we were picked 16th in the conference and people probably thought there was no way the number 16th team was going to go into Northern State and compete. That’s why I’m so proud. We fought and we had a chance, on the road.”

The Beavers had a problem with their bus after leaving Moorhead Friday night, having to temporarily pull over on Interstate 29 for an hour before the issue was resolved. Minot State finally rolled into Aberdeen at 2:30 a.m., making Graupe elect to skip the morning shoot around.

Garrick Hodge/MDN MSU's Holly Johnson (23) drives to the basket Saturday.

“We were supposed to do a shootaround at 10 and I said ‘Forget it,'”Graupe said. “That trip took a lot out of them. So we felt rest was more important.”

Despite the late arrival, there was no sluggish start for MSU. The Beavers trailed 16-14 after the first quarter and were tied at 29 with NSU entering halftime.

Junior guard Maddie Wald was struggling offensively entering the contest, shooting 33 percent from the floor and 27 percent from beyond the arc. But the Minot native turned in one of her best first halves of the year, going 4-of-4 from the field (including two 3-pointers). Unfortunately for MSU, Wald didn’t score in the second half.

The Beavers led NSU 50-48 entering the fourth quarter, largely due to their success beyond the arc. MSU matched a season-high 11 3-pointers, finishing 11-of-25 from long range.

NSU came alive to start the fourth, opening the quarter on a 12-0 run. MSU didn’t do itself any favors, committing four turnovers on NSU’s run.

“Sooner or later, they’re so good, a run is going to happen,” Graupe said. “I think we played zone a little too much and I take responsibility for that. But I loved the fight, we didn’t quit till the very end.”

Holly Johnson led MSU with 15 points, while Mariah Payne added 14, Diondra Denton chipped in 11 and Wald finished with 10. MSU shot 44.7 percent from the floor and 12-of-15 from the free throw line.

NSU’s Miranda Ristau had a game-high 23 points on a 10 of 14 shooting effort, while Brianna Kusler paced the Wolves with 15 points. The Wolves shot 52 percent from the floor, 4-of-11 beyond the arc and 18-of-20 from the free throw line.

MSU (6-8, 3-7) is back in action at 6 p.m. Friday against Minnesota State Mankato at the MSU Dome.

Garrick Hodge covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @Garrick_Hodge.