When the Minot State University women's basketball team hosts a pair of conference games this weekend, it'll be focused on two of the most elementary aspects of the sport: taking care of the basketball and putting it in the hoop.
The first time the Beavers (8-8, 4-8 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) played Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State, MSU committed 52 turnovers on the two-game road trip.
The Beavers play SCSU (12-4, 8-4) today and UMD (10-6, 7-5) on Saturday.
Minot State University’s Francesca DeAngelis shoots over a University of Mary defender on Jan. 15 at the MSU Dome. The senior is coming off a season-high 27 points against Augustana College on Saturday.
"With these two teams, because we have a track record of turning the ball over against them, it's gonna start with taking care of the basketball," MSU coach Sheila Green Gerding said. "Then if you limit their offensive rebounds, which we did a poor job of last time, you have more offensive opportunities. When you get those opportunities you have to knock down shots. It's pretty simple."
Knocking down shots hasn't been easy for the Beavers during their last few games. Guards Morgan Klose and Sacarra Molina, the team's most proficient jump shooters for most of the season, combined to hit just 8-of-55 field-goal attempts over MSU's last three contests.
"Kids can be their own worst enemy," Green Gerding said. "When you start missing shots, it just gets in your head and then you miss more and your confidence just goes downhill. I think mentally we need to be tougher and we need to have more confidence from within."
Green Gerding said Molina - the team's second-leading scorer at 11.8 points per game - appears on the verge of snapping out of her funk after playing more aggressively in the second half of MSU's 94-66 loss at No. 13 Augustana on Saturday.
Senior wing player Francesca DeAngelis was a bright spot for the Beavers in that blowout, tallying a season-high 27 points.
"She's really kind of settled into her role," Green Gerding said. "She has the right mentality right now and she's been able to handle the assignments we've given her on the defensive end. ... She's a tough matchup for teams because she does post so it's hard to have a guard cover her, she does play the perimeter so it's hard to have a post guard her. She's just pretty versatile."
The sturdy 5-foot-9 DeAngelis may have to defend some post players this weekend, as the Beavers will be undersized against some quality, post-oriented opponents.
Duluth juniors Katrina Newman (15.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Hannah Rutten (14.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg) stand at 5-11 and 6-2, respectively, and are the Bulldogs' top two scorers and rebounders.
St. Cloud State is led by 6-0 sophomore forward Jessica Benson, who averages 15 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
But defensive game plans can only take the Beavers so far. If MSU turns the ball over an average of 26 times like it did the first time it played these opponents, the Beavers will have to do nearly everything else perfectly to protect their home court.
"From those games, we've gotten better each game," MSU freshman point guard Amanda Sansaver said. "That goes for turnovers, too. ... As point guards, we were getting used to the pressure at this level. So now that we've played more teams, we've been able to handle that and been able to communicate as a team better."