College women’s basketball: Depleted bench doesn’t keep Bulldogs from bouncing Beavers

UMD’s Olson and Rhoades lead the way in Bulldogs’ home opener.

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Minnesota Duluth's Brooke Olson (24) reacts to her basket and a foul call on Minot State's Calli Delsman (12) in the first half Friday, Jan. 8, at Romano Gym. (Tyler Schank /

A strange sound came from the Minnesota Duluth women’s basketball bench on Friday at Romano Gym, a sort of cackle that almost could be described as the call of the whooping crane.

“Oh, I’m sure that was Lauren Miller,” UMD sophomore guard Taytum Rhoades said, laughing.

After Winona State, UMD’s opponent last week, had a positive test for COVID-19, UMD was not only forced to cancel its second game with the Warriors last week but to hold players out of this weekend’s two-game series with Minot State.

No matter, even with only nine players suiting up and 10 in attendance, the Bulldogs are a force to be reckoned with. Junior forward Brooke Olson scored 22 points and Rhoades had a career-high 19 points off the bench — 10 better than her previous best — as UMD pulled away from the Beavers for an 83-65 NSIC victory in the Bulldogs’ home opener.

“It’s tough, that’s the way this pandemic is going to be. You’re seeing that at every level,” UMD coach Mandy Pearson said. “We’re just going to look forward to those times where we can be on the court, and hopefully we can keep staying safe. My players really take COVID seriously and they’re careful and they’ve made some sacrifices so that they can play. We’re lucky to have an administration that is giving us the best chance to be successful with our protocols. It is what it is. I can’t wait to get my players back who were exposed. We miss them.”


With no fans in attendance, and UMD’s sideline reduced from its usual roster size of 14, whoever wasn’t playing was yelling twice as loud for the Bulldogs, who led 39-29 at the break.

“At halftime we kind of rallied together. We just needed more energy,” said Rhoades, who scored 11 points in the second half. “It’s hard when players are sitting out and we can’t have them on the bench and energy is low. Once we got together, and took a minute, it was all just energy after that. We all had each other’s backs and communicated. It all came together and helped us pull away.

Payton Kahl added 15 points and Maesyn Thiesen added 11 as four players reached double figures in scoring for the Bulldogs (2-0).

Amber Stevahn (17 points), Kate Head (12) and Haley Hildenbrand (10) reached double figures for the Beavers (0-3).

Both teams shot well, with UMD connecting on 50 percent of its shots and 45.8 percent from 3-point range, compared to 45.5 and 41.7 for Minot State, the Bulldogs only had eight turnovers to the Beavers’ 20.

Minot State coach Mark Graupe said he was pleased with holding Thiesen to 11 while containing fellow starters Sarah Grow and Ann Simonet to four points apiece but UMD has offense to go around.

“Their balance is just really difficult to defend, and then you have Brooke Olson just being Brooke Olson,” Graupe said. “That’s why she was the NSIC Player of the Year last year. Also, our turnovers hurt us, but I give Duluth credit for several of those because they always play great man defense.”

Pearson said the players not in attendance would be allowed to return to practice Tuesday.


UMD and Minot State rematch at 2 p.m. Saturday at Romano, and it’s those days of back-to-back games where the Bulldogs might miss not having a full roster.

“That’s the challenge of learning how to do this, and come back with the same energy and same focus while playing the same team,” Pearson said. “I’m excited to see how we handle it tomorrow.”

While the bulk of UMD’s team remains intact, Pearson certainly would like a little more bench to work with, not just for the depth they provide but for the energy.

Pearson took part in a Zoom press conference following Friday’s game and in a candid moment opened up at the end about how tough it was to have players going through the 10-day quarantine process. Yeah, they’ll only miss three games, but when the schedule has already been greatly reduced, you only have so many games to go around this season.

“I feel bad for them,” Pearson said. “They’re doing everything that they can right now. They’re working out on their own and they’re doing film sessions. They’ve got good energy. I’m proud of what they’re doing right now, but I wish they could be here, too.”

Minnesota Duluth 83, Minot State 65

Minot State — Amber Stevahn 7-14 3-3 17, Kate Head 5-6 0-0 12, Lucy Chapman 2-8 2-2 7, Calli Delsman 1-3 0-0 2, Mollie Wilson 1-2 0-0 2, Haley Hildenbrand 5-8 0-0 10, Natasha Elliott 2-5 1-4 6, Sydney Anderson 1-1 2-2 5, Bethany Theodore 1-4 2-2 4, Faith Brintle 0-3 0-0 0, Anna Counts 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 10-13 65.
Minnesota Duluth — Brooke Olson 8-13 3-4 22, Payton Kahl 4-9 6-6 15, Maesyn Thiesen 3-7 3-4 11, Ann Simonet 2-3 0-0 4, Sarah Grow 2-10 0-1 4, Taytum Rhoades 7-12 2-3 19, Madelyn Granica 2-3 0-1 6, Lauren Miller 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 29-58 14-19 83.
Halftime — UMD 39, Minot State 29. 3-point goals — Minot State 5-12 (Stevahn 0-1, Head 2-3, Chapman 1-2, Wilson 0-1, Elliott 1-1, Anderson 1-1, Theodore 0-2, Brintle 0-1), UMD 11-24 (Olson 3-6, Kahl 1-4, Thiesen 2-4, Simonet 0-1, Grow 0-2, Rhoades 3-4, Granica 2-3). Fouls — Minot State 20, UMD 17. Fouled out — Delsman. Rebounds — Minot State 3 (Stevahn, Hildenbrand 6), UMD 24 (Olson 8). Assists — Minot State 12 (Theodore 3), UMD 17 (Thiesen, Simonet 4). Turnovers — Minot State 20 (Head 4), UMD 8 (Olson, Rhoades 2).


Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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