Feb. 3—MANKATO — Teams have constructed a new scheme when it comes to defending Minnesota State University, Mankato sophomore guard Natalie Bremer.
Mavericks coach Emilee Thiesse has taken note.
"They try not to let Natalie touch the ball," Thiesse said. "And they keep watching her when she's off the ball."
These are compliments of the highest order.
Fellow Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference teams were given four months a year ago to digest the former Lake City All-State player's strengths. What they found was that they were enumerable.
The 5-foot-11 Bremer is fast, quick, sturdy, tenacious, slick with the ball, can shoot and never stops moving. That's a lot to contend with. When her freshman season was done, Bremer's averages reflected all of that talent and will: 14.6 points, 48% field-goal shooter, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game.
Despite being a reserve, Bremer did enough to land on the All-NSIC second team and twice was named the NSIC South Division Player of the Week.
Bremer also did enough as a freshman for teams to start trying new ways to slow her down this season. They've not had a lot of luck.
Bremer is averaging 14 points (45% from the field), 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. She's done it on a team that is 14-1 in the NSIC, 17-4 overall, winner of 15 straight and ranked 22nd in NCAA Division II.
Mankato is coming off an 81-63 domination of University Minnesota Duluth on Wednesday, avenging its only NSIC loss this season. Bremer did her usual stuff, hitting 7-for-11 shots and finishing with 16 points, as well as four rebounds and two steals.
One game prior, she had 21 points (9-for-16 field-goal shooting), 5 rebounds and 6 steals in a romp over Minnesota State Moorhead. It marked the third straight game that Bremer had shot over 50% from the field.
It's been a different role for Bremer this season, now a full-fledged starter and hugely depended on. That dependence comes with pressure, both from other teams and supplied internally.
"Year two is a whole new level," Thiesse said. "As a freshman, there isn't a whole lot of expectation. But now, everyone knows about her. They are scouting to take Natalie out of games. There is a big jump from your freshman to your sophomore year, and Natalie has handled that so well."
When Bremer made the choice to attend Minnesota State, Mankato, she did it with style in mind.
Thiesse opts for a fast up-and-down the court offensive and defensive operation. That suits Bremer perfectly. After all, speed is one of her greatest assets. She was one of the state's top sprinters in track and field as a Lake City senior.
Bremer is able to put that athleticism to full use under Thiesse.
"Playing for Emilee puts me in a very good place," said Bremer, who combined with Mavericks point guard Joey Batt gives Mankato one of the fastest guard tandems in Division II basketball. "Emilee encourages me everyday. She coaches with a lot of fire."
She's also encouraged another aspect to flow from Bremer. She's asked the sophomore to become more of a leader for this Mavericks team and to do it with her voice.
Bremer has come through there, too.
"Coach has challenged me to become more vocal with my thoughts as well as lead by example," Bremer said. "I think that's gone very well. I'm comfortable with that now."
It was an easy step for Bremer mostly thanks to the nature of this team. It's a close-knit group, with a bunch of teammates she can't get enough of.
It's made for a satisfying and winning equation.
"This year, we have so much chemistry," Bremer said. "Our team is in a really good place and we are striving (to accomplish) a lot more. Being around these teammates, I love it."