SIOUX CITY | Make that a 14th consecutive 20-win season for the Morningside College women’s basketball program.
Relying upon its active pressure defense, transition play and outstanding 26 of 29 free throw shooting, Coach Jamie Sale’s 11th-ranked Mustangs scored their fourth straight victory and their eighth consecutive triumph in the series against Hastings College.
Ninth-ranked Hastings, still in second place in the Great Plains Athletic Conference despite the 82-56 defeat, shot 35 percent from the field and committed 26 turnovers. Morningside’s Madison Braun, the league’s leader with a 3.54 average, had a field day, increasing her season steal total to 92 after snatching six for a 20-6 squad that still remained fourth in the league at 11-5 because third-place No. 8 Dakota Wesleyan moved to 12-4 after a 84-62 win over Midland.
“We wanted to be more flat with them, because we knew they were a drive and penetrate team, so we didn’t want to get beat on the dribble,” said Braun. “When they put three up, we pretty much put pressure up, but that’s what we were giving up more. We just didn’t want them to keep driving by.
“Defense wins games. It’s kind of cliché, but when we get up and put pressure with our hands high, you’re going to come away with a win and we did that today.”
Five other Mustangs had at least two steals, including each of the team’s four double-digit scorers – Lexi Ackerman (16), Lauren Lehmkuhl (14 points, 10 rebounds), reserve Jordyn Moser (13) and Sydney Hupp (10). Sale’s squad scored 19 points off turnovers with their relentless pressure designed to keep Hastings from getting in any sort of offensive flow.
“Hastings is a very physical team and they want to get the game into transition,” said Sale. “They’re at the bottom of the conference in three-point shooting, so we wanted to keep them away from the basket and make them take tough two-point shots. I think we did a pretty good job of that. We forced a lot of turnovers, which they normally don’t do.”
Morningside’s defense set the tone early, holding Hastings without a basket for a six-minute stretch in the first quarter. Four different players – Braun, Ackerman, Taylor Bahensky and Rachelle Housh, scored in the span after the Broncos had taken a 5-3 lead.
The Broncos scored on their last three first-quarter possessions, two of those baskets coming from Holly Hind. However, Hastings (20-6), paced offensively by Jordan Johnson’s 13 points, was held scoreless until the 5:16 mark of the second quarter until Alex Edwards’ three-point basket.
By then, Morningside had a 25-14 lead. Bahensky hit a three-point basket on the Mustangs’ next possession and eventually, the double-digit advantage just kept growing, reaching its peak at 55-25 after Braun’s steal led to Hupp’s driving basket midway through the third quarter.
Hastings still forced 22 turnovers with its full-court pressure. The Broncos had only one major advantage, 17-9 on the offensive boards, where six of those led to baskets, half of the three-point variety.
“On the other hand, we didn’t want to turn the ball over, which we kind of did,” said Sale. “In the first half, we turned it over a lot. Once we took care of that, we started scoring better. We attacked the basket a lot. When (Hastings) denies and plays hard on the ball, you have to go hard to the basket and try to get to the free throw line.”
Morningside resumes GPAC play Wednesday night at Dordt College.