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College women’s basketball: Olson, UMD take over in second half to pull away from Bemidji State

Unbeaten Bulldogs only commit four turnovers to overcome off shooting night.

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Taytum Rhoades (0) and Payton Kahl (21) of Minnesota Duluth compete against Trinity Myer (14) of Bemidji State for a rebound during Friday's game at Romano Gymnasium in Duluth. Minnesota Duluth defeated Bemidji State 68-58. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
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As Brooke Olson came off the floor in the second quarter of the Minnesota Duluth women’s basketball game Friday night against Bemidji State, Bulldogs coach Mandy Pearson had some simple words of advice for her star junior forward.

“Hey, slow it down a bit,” Pearson said.

It’s not the first time Olson has heard that, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Olson slowed it down while she heated up, scoring 16 of her 22 points in the second half as the Bulldogs pulled away for a 68-58 NSIC victory before 68 at Romano Gym to stay unbeaten.

“She really took over,” Pearson said of Olson’s second half. “I think she was rushing some things in the first half, but she slowed it way down and made some really great plays with the basketball. She’s such an intelligent basketball player, so I never have to say too much to her. She knows exactly what I mean.”

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Olson is the proverbial coach on the court, and it’s no wonder. The 6-foot-2 junior from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, is the daughter of Darla Olson, Rice Lake’s girls basketball coach and former women’s basketball coach at her alma mater, Michigan Tech.

Like mother, like daughter.

“For sure,” Brooke Olson said, laughing.

UMD (8-0) got great play from its bench, with Madelyn Granica having 10 points and Taytum Rhoades adding nine points and 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who only led 32-29 at halftime.

“Bemidji State has a great team, but we came together in the second half,” Olson said. “We finally got over that hump and started to gain some separation. I don’t think I was seeing the floor as well as I should have in the first half, and that’s what coach means by ‘slowing it down.’ If they’re doubling inside, you have to find where the space is.”

Bemidji State’s bench was vocal and so was the Beavers’ fan base. The crowd of 68 was almost big by today’s COVID-19 standards, perhaps boosted by the fact Bemidji has three products from Duluth’s backyard, sophomore forward Taylor Vold (Hermantown), sophomore guard Tori Bott (Two Harbors) and freshman guard Sam Pogatchnik (Proctor).

Rachael Heittola (12 points), Trinity Myer of Hayward (11) and Brooklyn Bachmann (10) all reached double figures in scoring for the Beavers (7-4).

“I thought we slowed them down in the first half but turned the ball over too much and didn’t make some high percentage shots,” Bemidji State coach Chelsea DeVille said. “And Olson is an All-American and tough matchup. She did a nice job of taking over, and Taytum made the extra effort plays for them on the boards.”

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Part of the reason UMD outrebounded Bemidji State — including 11-1 on the offensive glass, is because the Bulldogs didn’t shoot particularly well. Both teams shot just 40 percent, but Bemidji State was 8 of 20 from 3-point range (40%) to UMD’s 5 of 19 (26.3%).

The difference as coach DeVille alluded to was turnovers, with Bemidji State having 14 to only four by UMD and none by Olson despite the fact she has the ball a lot.

“I honestly don’t think we’re playing our best basketball yet and that is what’s super exciting,” Olson said. “We’re making strides and coming together on the floor. Off the floor, it couldn’t be any better. We’re best friends. Hopefully we’re peaking at the right time. The shots are going to fall. Honestly, we’re waiting for that breakout game, and hopefully it’s tomorrow.”

The same teams rematch at 4 p.m. Saturday at Romano, and while Pearson would like an easy game, just so she could relax a little bit, she knows that’s not going to happen.

“This is an awesome league,” Pearson said. “There are so many good coaches who throw a lot of stuff at us, and there are a lot of great players and teams. It’s a tough league to play in. It definitely is. Bemidji State came out with a ton of energy. They’re well coached and have really good team chemistry. You can tell when they’re out on the court. We knew that this weekend was going to be tough and we had to be ready with our best basketball.”

And by now, UMD is certainly getting used to that.

Minnesota Duluth 68, Bemidji State 58

Bemidji State — Gabby Dubois 2-8 0-0 5, Rachael Heittola 3-7 5-6 12, Brooklyn Bachmann 4-8 2-2 10, Trinity Myer 4-8 2-3 11, Sydney Zerr 2-3 0-0 6, Taylor Bray 2-6 2-2 6, Taylor Vold 2-7 0-0 5, Claire Wolhowe 0-2 0-0 0, Coley Rezabek 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 20-50 10-13 58.
Minnesota Duluth — Brooke Olson 8-17 5-6 22, Sarah Grow 1-5 4-4 6, Ann Simonet 3-11 0-0 7, Payton Kahl 1-3 3-4 5, Maesyn Thiesen 1-4 1-4 3, Taytum Rhoades 3-7 1-2 9, Madelyn Granica 5-9 0-0 10, Ella Gilbertson 2-4 1-2 6. Totals 24-60 15-22 68.
Halftime — UMD 32, Bemidji State 29. 3-point goals — Bemidji State 8-20 (Dubois 1-5, Heittola 1-2, Bachmann 0-1, Myer 2-3, Zerr 2-3, Vold 1-3, Wolhowe 0-2, Rezabek 1-1), UMD 5-19 (Olson 1-4, Simonet 1-2, Kahl 0-2, Thiesen 0-2, Rhoades 2-2, Granica 0-4, Gilbertson 1-3). Fouls — Bemidji State 16, UMD 13. Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Bemidji State 31 (Myer 8), UMD 37 (Rhoades 10). Assists — Bemidji State 12 (Bachmann 5), UMD 15 (Thiesen 4). Turnovers — Bemidji State 14 (Myer 5), UMD 4 (four with one).

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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 jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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