By: Patricia Constantin, Our Lady of the Lake Sports Information Director
MARSHALL, TEXAS – It was a battle between the NAIA's No. 11-ranked Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) Saints and the No. 13 Wiley College Lady Wildcats, and the Saints came out on top to win 96-92.
The victory keeps the Saints undefeated in the Red River Athletic Conference with a 6-0 record and 15-1 overall, while Wiley suffers its first conference loss to drop to 7-1 and 17-2 overall.
The win tonight marks the first time the Saints have defeated the Wildcats since 2012. Last year, the Wildcats accounted for the Saints' three losses of the season, two in the regular schedule and one in post season. Both teams ended up qualifying for the national tournament in Kentucky, and both lost in the first round.
Head Coach Christopher Minner said: "This was a fantastic road win. We shot the ball well, made clutch free throws and got some key rebounds late. I am very proud of the effort tonight. It wasn't our best defensive game, but the women showed mental toughness down the stretch. Now we need to focus on Shreveport tomorrow."
The Saints began the game by scoring the first five points until Wiley was able to sink a layup after a minute had passed. The difference between the two teams was as close as one point, but OLLU relented to lead by as much as nine at the 13th minute. A Saints' turnover gave Wiley's Danisha Shaw the opportunity to take the first lead of the game at 24-23 with 10 minutes left on the clock. Another Shaw layup took her team to 28-23, and a pair of 3-pointers from OLLU's Mercedes Dobson helped tie the game at 30. The game tied several more times before Courtney Bayliss' 3-pointer gave the Saints the 41-38 lead at the two-minute mark. The half ended with the Saints leading 46-45.
The Saints continued to lead in the final period, going up by as much as nine points after five minutes had passed. Wiley's Kyniddia Purdia took her team to within one point at 69-70. And Shaw's free throw tied the score at 70. OLLU's Nashae Owens took the ball down the court to score and regain the lead at 72-70. Three more ties occurred until OLLU's Electra Roberts was fouled by Purdy, and both of her free throws found the net to give the Saints the 78-76 lead.
An assist from Owens to Roberts on a fastbreak gave the Saints the 82-78 lead, and the score stayed the same for several minutes until Rebecca Kolawole gave her team the 84-78 lead.
After the Saints led by seven, the Wildcats came back to tie at 92 with one minute left in the game. Shaw's foul on Owens gave her the go-ahead to sink one of two free throws to lead 93-92. Free throws from Offord and Bayliss took the Saints to 96-92. Two missed shots beyond 3-point range by Wiley ended the game with the Saints winning 96-92.
Bayliss led the Saints' offense with 25 points, while Owens finished with 17, Kolawole with 16 and Roberts with 10. Ornela Bacchini recorded her fourth double-double scoring 12 points and adding 10 rebounds. The Saints shot 48 percent of their field goals, 47 percent of their 3-pointers and 68 percent of their free throws.
Wiley's Shaw was her team's high scorer with 32 points. Her team shot 47 from field-goal range, 18 percent from 3-point range and 52 percent from the free-throw line. The Wildcats won the rebounding battle finishing with 50, while the Saints had 41. They committed 20 turnovers, while forcing 24 on the Saints.
The Saints will return to the court on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. when they face Louisiana State University – Shreveport. LSU-S is 6-2 in the conference and 13-5 overall. The team is one game behind the Saints and Wiley – both of whom are tied for first place in the conference.