College women’s basketball: UMD shows depth in cruising past Saints in exhibition opener – Pine Journal - Techy Hunters


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

College women’s basketball: UMD shows depth in cruising past Saints in exhibition opener – Pine Journal

The answer was yes, and then the next question was, “We might need a game … are you interested in playing?”

Never mind that the game was only a few hours away. It was game on.

“Once we cleared it with the AD and I had my players provided some input, it was a consensus: yeah, why not?” Schmitz said. “It’s going to be better than practice.”

Senior forward Sarah Grow had 16 points, senior guard Maesyn Thiesen had 13 points and junior guard/forward Madelyn Granica had 12 points off the bench as the Bulldogs cruised to a 91-22 victory over St. Scholastica in their exhibition opener before 750 at Romano Gym, more than in any home game last year due to COVID-19 restrictions in place.

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Wisconsin-Superior was UMD’s originally scheduled opponent but had to cancel due to health and safety protocols.

“St. Scholastica’s team was actually planning on coming to the game to watch it anyway, so it worked out really well,” Pearson said. “It’s really nice we were able to still play. It would have been a bummer, so I’m really appreciative we were able to play them.”

The 12 points would have been a collegiate high for Granica had it officially counted after she averaged 3.1 points and 2.1 rebounds per game last season.

“That was awesome. It was definitely a good debut,” Granica said. “It’s so fun playing this year with a good crowd. I think that really helped us in that game. That was a good turnout for our first night, and it should just keep getting bigger and more fun. Having that crowd behind us really helped us roll on the court.”

While it’s hard to know what to take from a blowout in terms of a season outlook, both teams saw plenty they liked.

UMD, a high-level scholarship program coming off a 14-2 season and 9-1 mark in NSIC play, looked like the Bulldogs were picking up where they left off after advancing to the NCAA Division II Central Region semifinals last March. UMD, which returns every player from last season while adding two freshmen and a transfer, showed off crisp interior passing and ball movement, especially for a game in early November. The Bulldogs, who were ranked No. 18 in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association preseason poll released Tuesday, already look polished.

“We just have such an unselfish group,” Pearson said. “I thought offensively we were just sharing the ball and making really good decisions for the most part. It’s nice to see some of the areas where we have to grow. St. Scholastica took advantage of a couple things that we were doing, so it was good to see how we would adjust.”

The lopsided score allowed Pearson to rest star players such as senior forward Brooke Olson while emptying the bench and allowing Granica and company to show what they can do. Only five players can be on the court at once, of course, but UMD clearly showed the Bulldogs are plenty deep. It was fun seeing Cromwell-Wright products Taya (nine points, five rebounds) and Shaily Hakamaki (four points) running the floor just like the good old days for the Cardinals.

“They gel so well together and nobody really cares who scores,” Pearson said. “Sometimes at times we pass the ball a little too much, but that’s OK with me. We got to learn those things and figure it out.”

Granica got perhaps the loudest reaction from the UMD bench when she almost lost the handle on the ball, hit the floor and passed the ball from her belly to a cutting Taya Hakamaki for an easy layup.

“I think we have a lot of versatility with our bench, and Madelyn just works really hard, and her teammates love her because of that,” Pearson said. “She’s going to continue to work better. She’s strong. She’s probably our strongest kid.”

St. Scholastica, meanwhile, is a non-scholarship NCAA Division III program that went 0-9 overall last season and 0-6 in the UMAC. The Saints enter the more competitive Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference this season.

Sophomore Liz Frase of Proctor had six points, Macy Hermanson of Duluth East had four points and Eve Turner of Side Lake/Hibbing High School had five rebounds for the Saints.

St. Scholastica opens the season against former UMAC opponent Crown at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota.

“There was no reason not to go play one of the best teams in the country,” Schmitz said. “For us, we’re in a rebuilding mode as a program. Sometimes I think it might have been best to not know who we were playing because we couldn’t get intimidated watching film and seeing, these are some big girls out there. I’m proud of how our girls competed. There was no quit, the entire time.”

UMD plays another exhibition at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, against Bethel before opening the season at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, against nationally second-ranked Drury University in Springfield, Missouri.

“I worked hard over the offseason, and whatever my role is on the team this year, I’m going to do it to the best of my abilities and see how it goes,” Granica said. “We’re deep, and we all want to see each other succeed.”

UWS opens the season at home at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9, with a nonconference game against Wisconsin-Stout.

The Yellowjackets are coming off a 4-6 season, including 2-4 mark in conference play, and are picked to finish fifth in the UMAC despite returning all but one starter from a year ago. That includes their leading scores from last season in Kaija Davies and Kaelyn Christian, who earned All-UMAC honors after averaging more than 12 points per game.

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