Rebounding, bench lead WSU women to opening round victory over Bemidji State

It’s not how things begin, but rather how they finish. The No. 8 Winona State women’s basketball team missed its first eight shots from the field and trailed 10-1 early, but eventually found its groove to hold off Bemidji State 74-64 in the opening round of the NSIC / Sanford Health Tournament at McCown Gymnasium on Wednesday.

Defense, rebounding and bench scoring led WSU (28-2, 21-2) on a night where they struggled from the floor early.

The Warriors held the Beavers to just 37.1 percent from the field (23-for-62), outrebounded BSU 45-30 and picked up 37 points off the pine, led by Alexis Foley’s game-high 19 points.

Early 3-pointers from Tatum Sheley and Aimee Pelzer provided Bemidji State (7-20, 3-20) with an early cushion, but after Jenny Weiland tallied the first field goal for the Warriors, Tara Roelofs and Jenny Tuttle drilled shots from beyond the arc and WSU trailed 12-9 after one quarter .

The Beavers notched the first five points of the second, but Winona State used defense and rebounding to seize control as they closed out the half on a 13-1 run sparked by a four-point play from Connor Nagle that brought the Warriors to within one,, 25-24 with 2:56 left in the half. Foley gave WSU its first lead at 27-25 with 2:27 left, which ended up a 33-26 advantage for Winona State at the break.

BSU knocked down a trio of 3-pointers to tie it 35-35 with just under eight minutes left in the third, but on the strength of a Foley three-point play and a Nagle triple, WSU closed out the quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 58-46 lead into the final stanza.

Pelzer drained a 3-pointer with four minutes to go to close the gap to 64-58, but a Hannah McGlone lay-up with under three minutes to go put WSU ahead 68-58.

Weiland accounted for 12 points and six rebounds off the bench and Nagle posted a double-double with 11 points to go along with a career-high 10 boards. Kayla Timmerman finished just shy of a double-double of her own with 15 points and nine rebounds. McGlone added eight caroms, as well.

Winona State, the top free throw shooting team in the nation, drained 21 of 23 from the charity stripe en route to its 12th consecutive victory.

Pelzer led the Beavers with 19 points, while Sheley had 15 and Hanna Zerr poured in 13. Sierra Senske pulled down 1o rebounds. Bemidji State finished its season 0-12 on the road.

WSU advances to the NSIC quarterfinals where they will match up with Concordia-St. Paul at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D..

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