FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Skylarr Shurn and Brooke Ridley are newcomers to this University of Saint Francis-Indiana Wesleyan University rivalry, but they played like veterans leading the Lady Cougars to a 62-55 upset over NAIA top-ranked IWU on Wednesday at Hutzell Athletic Center.
Shurn, a junior transfer from Vincennes University, scored a career high 25 points and Ridley, a true freshman from Bishop Luers High School, scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half. USF improved to 19-2 overall and 8-1 in Crossroads League competition to share the league lead with IWU after the first run through the schedule. IWU had its 27-game regular-season win streak halted and 20-game 2012-13 win streak halted. USF halted a four-game skid against IWU, which leads the series 28-21 since 1992-93.
The Wildcats (20-1, 8-1 CL) tied the game at 29 early in the second half when Taylor Goshert buried a 3-pointer at 17:24 but it was the only time the Lady Cougars shared the lead. After trading turnovers, Jenelle Wilson launched a 3-pointer from the corner that whistled through the twine for a 32-29 USF lead at 16:05 and started a 16-2 run that put USF into a comfortable 45-31 lead with 11:32 to play after Ridley's jumper. Wilson hit all three of USF's 3s and finished with 11 points while Meghan Slusher added 10.
"They've got a great team, but we were able to execute our game plan and take away some things they like to do," USF Head Coach Gary Andrews analyzed after the win. "Brooke did a great job defending against (Paige) Smith and Skylarr just had a great game on both ends of the court. That run was huge after they had rallied to tie the game."
"When they cut it to five, I thought we did an excellent job of maintaining our composure," Andrews added. "We took care of the ball and still worked to get the best shot possible, then knocked them in. We had to keep scoring, keep attacking when the opportunity was there. Great job."
USF led by 14 one more time at 47-33 on a Ridley second-chance score with 10:52 to play in the second half. IWU rallied cutting the deficit to five three times between 5:03 and 1:51. Katrina Blackmon powered in a second-chance bucket trimming the USF advantage to five, 54-49, with 1:51 to play. Shurn had the answer with a drive to the basket for two and a 56-49 lead at 1:41. The Wildcats got no closer than six once in the time remaining while USF connect on 6-of-6 shots from the free throw line to complete the upset.
Shurn scored 12 points in the first half and came back with 13 in the second half.
"We don't take any team lightly," Shurn said. "I thought a key was limiting touches for (Paige Smith) in the second half. I was a little nervous when we got the big lead, because we've had a tendency to let teams back in it. I thought we did a decent job of keeping our poise, getting shots and finishing free throws. We talked about how to attack their zone during a timeout and we just had to be patient. We were and got Meghan some shots. I just was aggressive on offense."
USF was perfect at the free-throw stripe hitting 15-of-15 shots. IWU hit 14-of-20 free throw attempts.
Shurn was 9-for-9 at the line to help her surpass her previous career best of 23 points. She scored five points in the USF run that put the Lady Cougars in front by 14.
"We did a good job of making stops and getting the ball out in transition and converting some opportunities during that stretch," Andrews said.
"First of all, this has never felt so good to beat a team like this," Slusher said. "This is my fourth season and we've never been a good enough team to actually contend with them and we did a (heckuva) job in my eyes."
Drake, who didn't play in the three losses to IWU in 2011-12, only scored two points (she averages 15.2 ppg), but she took care of the point and dished out three assists.
"We had to stick to our game plan," Drake said. "That's what I did. I just tried to come ready."
And then there was Ridley, who has set a USF single-season record for blocked shots with 60 including four against IWU.
"Brooke really had to battle in there and shut them down in an area they are pretty strong at," Slusher said.
"She was phenomenal in there," Drake added.
"It feels great to finally beat them," Ridley said after the game. She was in the fifth or sixth grade the last time USF knocked off IWU as the No. 1 team. "I was really excited to play them and happy to contribute to our win tonight."
Claire Ray led IWU scoring with 16 points, Paige Smith added 14 and Katrina Blackmon 10 for IWU.
USF, now 6-0 at home, starts the second-half schedule 'gauntlet' on Saturday when 24th-ranked Huntington travels to USF for the rematch at HAC at 1 p.m.
"We got off to a good start," Andrews said. "That was important because we gained some confidence learning we could compete against No. 1."
Shurn hit two free throws at 5:22 helping USF to a 21-13 lead in the first half. USF settled for a 25-20 halftime lead.
USF starts the second-half schedule 'gauntlet' on Saturday when 24th-ranked Huntington travels to USF for the rematch at HAC at 1 p.m. The Wildcats, who are now 13-1 in away/neutral court games, are 5-1 against NAIA Top 25 competition. IWU plays at Marian University on Saturday at 1 p.m.