UMD clinches NSIC women's tourney bid

By KBJR News 1

February 20, 2011 Updated Feb 20, 2011 at 2:36 AM CDT

With Senior Day and "Think Pink," the final regular season home game was already a special one for the University of Minnesota Duluth women's basketball team.

The Bulldogs (14-10 overall, 12-8 Northern Sun) added one more item to the mix however, as they rolled over Southwest Minnesota State University Saturday in convincing 72-50 fashion, and clinched their berth into the NSIC conference playoffs.

Senior forward Kelsey Hewitt turned senior day into her day, dropping a game-high 22 points, and shot 9-13 from the floor to launch UMD into a comfortable halftime lead, and an even cushier second-half margin.

"The guards definitely got some great outside looks tonight, and that helps create space for me and the other posts," Hewitt said. "It was really balanced for us, and they did a great job of seeing the court and finding mismatches all game."

Hewitt's 22 points marked the fourth time this season the senior surpassed the 20-point mark. In those four games, the Bulldogs are 3-1 as a team.

The Mustangs (7-18, 6-15) came out very aggressive on the boards, out-rebounding the Bulldogs early on and using it to take an eight-point lead halfway through the first period. Sophomore guard Kaiya Sygulla provided a big spark off the bench however, hustling down four first-half rebounds - three offensive boards - and UMD rode her energy to a 23-5 run to end the first half up 32-22.

"We were in a little bit of a slump, and Kaiya definitely gave us some energy," Hewitt said.

UMD shot 57 percent in the second half and used 15 players in the win, including four of the five seniors. Guard Kylee Smith did not dress due to injury, and was the only member of the Bulldogs to not see action in the game.

Junior forward Shelly Stemper finished with 6 points and 8 rebounds, while Sygulla added 8 points and 5 rebounds. Stemper and Sygulla led the team with 5 assists apiece. Freshman forward Katrina Newman notched 12 points and junior center Emma Van Winkle contributed seven as the Bulldogs cruised to the win.

"This is maybe one of the best team wins this season," Coach Annette Wiles said. "I think one of the players that maybe go unnoticed is Shelly Stemper. She draws the opposing team's best player every night, and she really locked them up and shut them down today."

Courtesy: UMD Athletics