Bulldogs outrun Mavericks all the way to NCAA Central Region women's basketball title game
Brooke Olson threatened school and tournament single-game records, scoring 43 points.
DULUTH — After booking a third meeting with Minnesota State Mankato on Friday night, Minnesota Duluth coach Mandy Pearson said her team needed to be "as slow as molasses" on Saturday against a Mavericks team that thrives on pushing opponents into mistakes.
UMD's offense was less viscous than perhaps Pearson preferred, but the ending was still sweet for the Bulldogs, who ran the fifth-seeded Mavericks out of Romano Gym, 86-70 on Saturday night in the NCAA Central Region semifinals.
"To still continue to have the patience and the strength and the toughness to do what we did tonight is absolutely incredible by you guys," UMD coach Mandy Pearson said to her players in a postgame news conference.
"We found a way in the chaos to play our style of basketball," she said.
One night after Brooke Olson played a leading role by scoring 31 points as the Bulldogs dismissed Southern Nazarene, Olson raised her game even further, coming within a point of the school's single-game scoring record and three of the tournament single-game scoring record by recording 43 points on 16-of-20 from the field. She also pulled down 14 rebounds.
A 25-21 first-quarter (in UMD's favor) set the tone, and the teams remained relatively close through halftime, with UMD up 40-37, and into the second half. The Bulldogs made their move early in the third quarter. Olson scored layups on consecutive possessions, the second including a free throw, and baskets by Ella Gilbertson and Taytum Rhoades allowed UMD to take its first double-digit lead of the game 51-39, 3:14 into the third quarter.
Maysen Thiesen and the UMD guards had to face a relentless and physical Mavericks press, which they cracked several times to get Olson easy buckets throughout the game or set up in the half-court for open shots. The opportunities led to UMD making 55% (27 for 49) from the field. The Mavericks shot 34.4% (21 for 61).
"I knew I was going to fall down a few times, and I just knew that every single time I had to get back up. If I didn't get back up, there was nothing left to look forward to," Thiesen said.
The Mavericks closed to within six, but a layup from Olson and two pairs of free throws allowed UMD to go to the fourth quarter up 60-45. The Mavericks simply couldn't slow down Olson or the Bulldogs offense enough to make a run and never closed to less than 12 points in the fourth quarter.
"Every time they would make two good plays in a row, if we would have one, the fans would go crazy, and I thought that energized us and maybe hurt them a little," Pearson said.
In addition to Olson's 43, a career-high, Taya Hakamaki scored 13 points off the bench, while Rhoades and Thiesen scored 12 each.
UMD (28-3) has a day off before the regional championship game Monday night at Romano Gym against Missouri Southern State. The third-seeded Lions defeated Pittsburg State 73-64 in the early quarterfinal on Saturday night.