Bulldogs shut down Assumption in NCAA Elite Eight women's basketball quarterfinal

The Bulldogs allowed only 14 first-half points.

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The Minnesota Duluth bench celebrates a big play during an NCAA Elite Eight women's basketball quarterfinal vs. Assumption at St. Joseph Civic Arena in St. Joseph, Missouri on Monday, March 20, 2023.
Arianne Boma / NCAA

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — There will be a time in the future when Minnesota Duluth women's basketball has to play without Brooke Olson.

For a while in the NCAA Elite Eight national quarterfinals, that time was Monday, but the arrangement was not permanent. The second-seeded Bulldogs thumped seventh seed Assumption 61-41 despite foul trouble limiting Olson to her fewest minutes of the season.

Olson, the recently crowned national player of the year, scored on two early possessions, but picked up her second foul just 2:31 in and remained on the bench for the rest of the half.

"This is probably the most proud I've ever been of Brooke because she got two fouls and she wanted to go back in that game. She was probably a little bit mad at me, and handled it really, really well down the stretch," UMD coach Mandy Pearson said, adding, "That anger, she used it in the right way."

A suffocating defensive performance allowed Pearson to resist the temptation to put Olson back in. The Greyhounds had twice as many turnovers in the first half (10) as they did made baskets, and they shot 5 for 26 from the field (19.2%). Many of the misses were wild drives to the basket that didn't even draw iron.


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Minnesota Duluth's, from left, Kaylee Nelson (23), Taytum Rhoades (0) and Madelyn Granica (22) pursue Assumption's Marina Callahan during an NCAA Elite Eight women's basketball quarterfinal on Monday at St. Joseph Civic Arena in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Arianne Boma / NCAA

"My mother used to always say that the team that wins is the one that puts the ball in the basket the most. She's very profound that way. And we didn't do that today," Assumption coach Kerry Phayre quipped. "Their length really got to us. We struggled to get to the basket, that's kind of a big part of our offense and we were a little stubborn in that we wanted to continue to try to do that."

The Greyhounds ended up 15 for 53 from the field (28.3%) and missed all 10 of their 3-point attempts despite making 6.4 per game, at a 45% clip, during the season.

Other than a single 13-second possession in the first two minutes of the game, UMD never trailed. With their leading scorer sitting out, the Bulldogs offense wasn't always hooked up, but UMD scored 11 consecutive points to take control of the game not long after Olson sat down.

UMD spread out the offense, with backup center Lexi Karge and starting guard Madelyn Granica scoring two times apiece. The 31% first half field-goal shooting (11 for 35) wasn't ideal, but a 27-14 halftime lead was encouraging. Despite the different situation, UMD had six assists (four from Maesyn Thiesen and two from Kaylee Nelson) in the first half and only one turnover.

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Minnesota Duluth's Maesyn Thiesen is pursued by Assumption's Amanda Mleczkowski during the NCAA Elite Eight women's basketball national quarterfinals on Monday at St. Joseph Civic Center in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Arianne Boma / NCAA

"I thought that our players did a really good job attacking, slowing down and then they'd help finding the open person. It was a combination of perimeter and inside players making good plays," Pearson said.

Olson came back in the game for the second half and faced double-team pressure nearly every time she touched the ball, not getting back in the scorebook until a hook shot and an and-one on consecutive trips late in the third quarter. She still finished as the game's leading scorer with 15 points.

"I trust every single person out on the floor and they are able to execute whatever we need to do to win, and so I have complete trust and faith. I was a little antsy and it kind of was difficult but I just wanted to win; that's all I cared about," she said.

The Greyhounds improved somewhat on the offensive end, but never strung together more than four consecutive points and never closed within single digits in the second half.


"I don't remember being mad about a defensive mistake that we made, defending those things," Pearson said. "They study. It's wonderful for me because I can tell them things and they execute it with perfection."

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Minnesota Duluth fans wave yellow towels to celebrate during the Bulldogs' win over Assumption in the NCAA Elite Eight national quarterfinals on Monday at St. Joseph Civic Center in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Arianne Boma / NCAA

Assumption leading scorer Molly Stokes (12.0 points per game) managed only four points on 2-of-7 shooting and the Greyhounds finished with 19 turnovers against seven assists after averaging 14 assists per game in the regular season.

"We're not used to all of that length at all of the positions. We have some shorter guards and they had trouble. We could get to the basket but we couldn't score over them, so I think that's what hurt us," Phayre said.

Monica Spain led Assumption (27-6) with 13 points.

Ella Gilbertson scored 12 off the bench for UMD (30-4). The Bulldogs will face sixth-seeded Catawba in the semifinals on Wednesday night at 6 p.m., which is likely to pose a significantly different threat after defeating Cal State Dominguez Hills 77-70 in a much faster-paced first quarterfinal of the day.

Assumption 7-7-12-15—41

Minn. Duluth 16-11-13-21—61

Assumption — Ja'Lyn Armstrong 8, Monica Spain 13, Amanda Mieczkowski 4, Marina Callahan 7, Molly Stokes 4, Teagan Curran 1, Grace Leary 4; FG: 15-53; FT: 11-15; 3-point field goals: None.

Minnesota Duluth — Brooke Olson 15, Taytum Rhoades 7, Madelyn Granica 6, Maesyn Thiesen 5, Lexi Karge 4, Ella Gilbertson 12, Taya Hakamaki 8, Ani Tschida 2, Myra Moorjani 2; FG: 24-68; FT: 7-11; 3-point field goals: Olson 1, Rhoades 1, Thiesen 1, Gilbertson 1, Hakamaki 2.

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Minnesota Duluth fans celebrate during the NCAA Elite Eight women's basketball quarterfinal victory vs. Assumption on Monday at St. Joseph Civic Arena in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Arianne Boma / NCAA

This story was updated at 7:15 p.m., Monday, March 20 with comments from coaches and players, as well as additional stats and game information. It was originally published at 4:26 p.m. on the same day.

Brandon has been sports editor of the News Tribune since August 2021.
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