While rising forward Brooke Olson turned in a career performance, for the rest of Minnesota Duluth's women's basketball team, it was a struggle as the Bulldogs fell 63-54 to NSIC rival Minnesota State-Moorhead in the first round of the NCAA Division II tournament Friday night in Hays, Kan.
Moorhead, which benefited from 16 points and nine rebounds by senior guard Jacky Volkert, advances to the Central Region semifinals where the Dragons (27-6) will play tournament host Fort Hays State (31-1) at 7:30 p.m. today at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Madi Green added 14 points and Megan Hintz added five points, 15 rebounds, six assists and two blocks as Moorhead snapped UMD's six-game winning streak.
Fourth-year UMD coach Mandy Pearson, flanked to her left by seniors Josie Buckley and Emma Boehm, was asked to give an opening statement in the postgame news conference.
"Obviously today sucks," Pearson said. "These girls have worked so incredibly hard, and honestly, they're the best people I've ever been around. We took (25) more shots than our opponent, and we got some really good looks, so that's frustrating to come here and get the looks that you want ... and finish the season that way."
Olson, a freshman from Rice Lake, Wis., had a career-high 22 points and eight rebounds to lead the Bulldogs (23-7). She shot an efficient 10-for-18 from the floor, showing off a nice baseline jumper, as well as fluid moves and nice touch around the rim. Boehm added 14 points, five rebounds and four assists.
UMD shot an anemic 23-for-80 from the field - a paltry 28.8 percent. Take away Olson, and the rest of the Bulldogs were just 13-for-62 (21 percent). UMD was also outrebounded 57-39, unusual for a team that plays a pair of 6-foot-2 players in Olson and sophomore Sarah Grow. UMD did have an advantage in turnovers, with Moorhead having 19 to just five for the Bulldogs.
UMD senior point guard Sammy Kozlowski scored all 10 of her points in the first quarter as the Bulldogs controlled play for most of the first half before the Dragons went on a 10-0 run between the second and third quarters. They never trailed again.
"Moorhead is such an incredibly good offensive team and we held them to 63 points," Pearson said. "That's not an easy feat to do."
Fifth-seeded Moorhead led by as many as 10 points before fourth-seeded UMD made a late rally, cutting the deficit to 55-51 on a Katie Stark pull-up jumper with 1:06 to play. That's as close as the Bulldogs would get as the Dragons kept UMD at bay by making 17 of 25 free throws compared to 3 of 4 for the Bulldogs.
It was the fourth time UMD and Moorhead met this season, with the teams splitting during the regular season and the postseason, with the Bulldogs edging the Dragons 52-48 in the NSIC tournament championship game March 5.
UMD's 23 wins were its most since going 25-5 in 2002-03. The Bulldogs were just 7-19 in Pearson's first season in 2015-16.
"This is the most incredible team that I've been around in my entire life," Pearson said. "The energy and the work ethic, they're incredible people, so it's a tough day, but I hope tonight we can just celebrate the things that our seniors have accomplished in their four years."
Minn. Duluth 26-28-54
Minnesota State-Moorhead - Jacky Volkert 16, Kiley Borowicz 6, Madi Green 14, Megan Hintz 5, Natalie Steichen 4, Peyton Boom 6, Brooklyn Liegel 9, Nicole Brown 3. Totals 19 17-25 63.
3-point goals - Volkert 2, Green, Steichen, Liegel 3, Brown.
Minnesota Duluth - Sammy Kozlowski 10, Katie Stark 4, Emma Boehm 14, Sarah Grow 2, Payton Kahl 2, Brooke Olson 22. Totals 23 3-4 54.
3-point goals - Kozlowski 2, Boehm 2, Olson.