MOORHEAD-Minnesota State Moorhead head coach Karla Nelson hugged her mom, Bev, at halfcourt at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse during a postgame ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 22.

Nelson was acknowledged for earning career win No. 300 on the road last weekend.

"She's been there for me since I was in Pee Wee's all the way until now," Nelson said of her mother.

Moments earlier, Nelson improved her career victory total to 302. Drew Sannes scored a game-high 21 points and blocked five shots to help lead the No. 11-ranked Dragons to a 71-35 victory against Southwest Minnesota State in the first round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women's basketball tournament.

"I thought defensively our effort was exceptional," Nelson said. "They didn't get many easy looks."

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The Dragons (24-3) have won seven consecutive games and advanced to the NSIC tournament quarterfinals. MSUM plays the University of Sioux Falls at noon Saturday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The 6-foot-3 Sannes shot 60 percent (9 of 15) from the field, including 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range against the Mustangs. The junior forward netted 12 points in the first half to help the Dragons build a 29-point halftime lead.

"The past couple weeks she's gotten a little more aggressive, the way she played in December and January," Nelson said of Sannes. "We're going to need her to do that."

The Dragons started strong, scoring the game's first eight points to help build a 15-point lead after one quarter. MSUM never trailed.

Sannes scored 10 points in the opening 10 minutes on 4-for-5 shooting from the field, including two 3-pointers. She capped her strong opening quarter with basket that gave the Dragons a 21-6 lead with 1 minute, 30 seconds remaining in the first.

"It was awesome," said Dragons sophomore point guard Jacky Volkert, who had 10 points and six assists. "It was fun, it was our pace of the game. We were knocking down shots."

MSUM carried that momentum in the second quarter, where it limited the Mustangs to four points. The Dragons scored the final 11 points of the second quarter to take a 39-10 lead into halftime. Southwest Minnesota State shot 19 percent (5 of 27) from the floor in the first 20 minutes. Sannes had four rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals through two quarters.

"We wanted to make sure our intensity was up and for the most part we did that," Nelson said. "We defended really well and we sustained that for 30, 35 minutes."

The Dragons also received their plaque for winning the overall NSIC championship after the game, their first overall conference championship since 2004-05.

"Our goal is to play four game, to win four games so we know we've got to start strong and finish strong and this was a very good start," Volkert said of the NSIC tournament.

SMSU 6 10 18 35

MSUM 21 39 56 71

SMSU (3-24): Connell 1-5 0-0 3, Rodning 2-11 2-2 6, Silva 0-4 0-0 0, Hedlund 5-13 3-4 13, Holicky 1-6 2-2 4, VonWahlde 0-0 0-0 0, Bohler 1-3 0-0 2, E. Buysse 1-4 0-0 2, S. Buysse 1-3 2-2 5, Spicer 0-7 0-0 0, Wenning 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 12-57 9-10 35.

MSUM (24-3): Thorson 3-8 0-0 8, Volkert 5-7 0-0 10, Van Wyhe 0-3 0-0 0, Ham 1-4 0-0 2, Sannes 9-15 0-0 21, Erickson 1-4 0-0 3, Selensky 2-4 0-0 4, Hart 0-3 0-0 0, Galegher 2-3 1-1 5, Green 0-0 0-0 0, Swenson 1-3 2-2 4, Diegel 0-2 0-0 0, Hintz 7-9 0-0 14. Totals 31-65 3-3 71.

3-point goals: SMSU 2-19 (Connell 1-5, Rodning 0-1, Holicky 0-2, Bohler 0-1, E. Buysse 0-2, S. Buysse 1-2, Spicer 0-6), MSUM 6-21 (Thorson 2-6, Van Wyhe 0-3, Ham 0-1, Sannes 3-4, Erickson 1-3, Selensky 0-1, Hart 0-1, Diegel 0-2). Total fouls: SMSU 6, MSUM 15. Rebounds: SMSU 35 (Rodning 10), MSUM 45 (Van Wyhe 7). Assists: SMSU 3 (Wenning 2), MSUM 21 (Volkert 6). Steals: SMSU 5 (Rodning 2), MSUM 7 (Van Wyhe 2, Sannes 2). Turnovers: SMSU 18 (Holicky 6), MSUM 10 (Volkert 4). A-944.