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Wildcats’ defense keys win over Midland women’s basketball

December 20, 2018

WAYNE — The key to Wayne State women’s 64-53 win over Midland University Wednesday evening was defense.

The Wildcats’ 2-3 zone defense held Midland well below its 70.5 points per game scoring average by limiting the Warriors to just over 27 percent shooting from the field, significantly under their 39 percent average.

“It was a battle between a bunch of really good shooting guards vs. some big strong post players,” Wayne State coach Brent Pollari said. “We held them to 53 points, and they have a really good offensive team, but I think our defense was really good, and we adjusted well to what they were doing.”

The Warriors (8-7) managed to meet their season average from the 3-point line, making nine of 31 attempts but found scoring inside to be difficult against Wayne State’s defensive front line of 6-foot-3 Amelia Ivester and 6-4 Taylor Reiner. Andrea Larson and Brittany Bongartz, who are both 6-0, also helped.

Pollari’s intentions offensively were evident early as the ball went inside often during the opening quarter while Wayne State reversed a 5-2 deficit en route to a 16-13 lead. Six of the Wildcats’ seven first period field goals were scored in the lane.

During the second quarter, Midland’s defense adjusted, attempting to deny and then harass the Wildcats’ touches inside.

“We wanted to get more done inside, but they were sending the whole team to double-team when the ball went in,” Pollari said. “That caused a lot of turnovers for us.”

That’s when Wayne State turned to its perimeter game, getting a 3 and a driving pull-up jumper from Maggie Lowe and a pair of 3s from Halley Busse.

That allowed the Wildcats to counter three consecutive 3-point baskets by Midland’s Maddie Meadows that had created two one-possession leads before Wayne State secured a 34-32 halftime advantage.

In the third quarter, Wayne State’s offense became a blend of scoring from inside and outside, while seven of Midland’s 11 points came from the free throw line — but the Warriors made just 7 of 13 chances. Meanwhile, the Wildcats ended the period by cashing in a three-point play from Bongartz after an assist by Erin Norling, then two free throws each from Norling and Bongartz to help the Wildcats lead 54-43.

“A lot of our scoring came off their double-teams, but we like off-ball action, so we want the ball to move,” Pollari said. “We want the offense to create the shots for us.”

Midland cut the margin to eight points twice in the fourth quarter — the first time after a three-point play by Maddie Egr, who played two seasons for coach Matt Svehla at Northeast Community College.

Wayne State’s Andrea Larson returned the lead to 11 before Tara Cannon’s 3 provided the Warriors one last opportunity for a comeback.

But the Wildcats closed out the win with Autumn Mlinar’s field goal inside and another Busse 3 three minutes later.

“What we started with defensively was pretty good, but then they started putting five-out and, if you keep your center in, you’ve got four people guarding five,” Pollari said. “So we had to make some adjustments there to stretch out the zone.”

Norling and Bongartz led Wayne State in scoring with 19 and 12 points, respectively, while Larson totaled 12 of the Wildcats’ 48 rebounds, including nine offensive boards. Norling also grabbed eight rebounds and finished with six assists.

Egr’s 14 points and eight rebounds paced the Warriors offense, with Meadows contributing 12 points.

With the 64-53 win, Wayne State improves to 8-3 on the season and maintains an undefeated record at Rice Auditorium.

“We’re done for the Christmas break; we’re a little beat up, so hopefully the days off will give us a chance to heal up,” Pollari said. “To be 8-3 with this situation, we’re doing all right.”

Midland 13 19 11 10 — 53

Wayne State 16 18 20 10 — 64

Midland (8-7): Makenna Sullivan 0-4 0-0 0, Maddie Meadows 4-10 0-0 12, Amanda Hansen 1-8 2-6 5, Madison Severson 1-6 0-0 2, Maddie Egr 5-15 4-4 14, Peyton Wingert 0-2 0-0 0, Samm Ashida 0- 2 0-0 0, Lexis Haase 2-7 2-2 6, Sam Shepard 3-6 0-0 8, Tara Cannon 2-5 0-1 6. Totals: 18-65 8-12 53.

Wayne State (8-3): Maggie Lowe 2-5 0-0 5, Erin Norling 6-11 6-7 19, Halley Busse 3-9 0-0 9, Andrea Larson 1-7 0-2 3, Brittany Bongartz 5-10 2-3 12, Haley Vesey 2-4 2-2 7, Autumn Mlinar 1-3 0-0 2, Kylie Hammer 1-9 1-2 3, Amelia Ivester 1-2 0-0 2, Taylor Reiner 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 23-63 11-16 64.

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