MADISON, S.D. -- The Bellevue University women's basketball team trailed the majority of the game, before using a late scoring run to pull away for a 68-59 victory over Dakota State University in the North Star Athletic Association opener Thursday night at the DSU Fieldhouse.
The Bruins improved to 9-4 on the season and 1-0 in the NSAA with the victory. DSU fell to 1-7 overall and 0-1 in league play.
Elexis Martinez (19) and Morgan Cuffe (18) combined for 37 points to lead the Bruin offense. Martinez narrowly missed a double-double finishing with nine rebounds. Cuffe was 12-of-14 from behind the charity stripe while adding four boards. Jamie Winkler was the third Bruin in double-figures, finishing with 10 points, to go along with three rebounds and three assists.
McKenzie Hermanson led the Trojans with 12 points and three rebounds. Jessi Giles added 10 points, three rebounds, and two assists.
The Bruins were 38.3 percent from the field, including a 3-of-24 mark from behind the 3-point arc. However, BU was aided by a 19-of-22 showing from the free-throw line.
The BU defense held DSU to 30.7 percent shooting from the field. The Trojans attempted 35 3-pointers, connecting on 11 of them.
Neither team could establish control in the first two quarters, with the largest lead for either team being five points.
A free throw by Alexis Robson gave DSU a five-point cushion at 28-23 with two minutes remaining in the opening 20 minutes. Faith Ross nailed a deep 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to slice the Trojan lead to one point at 31-30 at the intermission.
Cuffe and Ross led BU in the first half with six points each. Martinez added five points and six rebounds in the opening half. Hermanson paced the Trojans in the first half with six points and a pair of rebounds.
After Martinez tied the contest at 34-34 with a short jumper early in the third quarter, the Trojans scored six-straight points and built an eight-point advantage following a 3-pointer by Ashlyn MacDonald, giving DSU a 48-40 lead with 3:07 left in the third frame.
Martinez sparked a 6-0 run with a pair of field goals to bring BU to within two points at 48-46 before the Trojans closed the third quarter with four consecutive points to take a 50-46 advantage heading into the final quarter.
With DSU still leading by four, BU scored 13-straight points to build a nine-point edge at 61-52 with 1:31 remaining in the game. Cuffe drilled five free throws in the final minute to preserve the 68-59 victory.
The Bruins will travel to Vermillion, S.D. on Sunday, Dec. 9 for a 1 p.m. exhibition contest at NCAA Division I University of South Dakota at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.