SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Box Score) Junior guard Karen Hutson’s free throw with 1.9 seconds remaining lifted top-seeded Northwestern (Iowa) to a 63-62 victory over No. 8 Tabor (Kan.) in the first round of the 2014 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by State Farm, on Thursday. The win makes the Red Raiders 13-0 all-time in the national championship first round.
Northwestern (28-4), which is making its 13th-straight trip to the national championship, improves to an NAIA-best 43-7 all-time at the event. The Red Raiders, who received an automatic berth out of the Great Plains Athletic Conference, also own an NAIA record five national championships.
The trio consisting of senior Alli Engebretson, senior Samantha Kleinsasser and Hutson combined to score 40 of Northwestern’s 63 points, led by Engebretson’s 21-point effort. The 5-foot-9 guard ended the game 6-for-20 from the field and 7-for-9 at the free throw line.
The Red Raiders’ unblemished first round record seemed in doubt when Tabor took a 62-59 lead with less than 1:30 remaining on the game clock. Engebretson cut the deficit to two, 62-60, after hitting the front end of two free throws with just over a minute remaining. With the clock running under one minutes, Tabor attempted a 3-pointer from the corner that fell off the mark to give Northwestern an additional opportunity to tie or take the lead. A jump ball following a missed layup attempt kept the ball with Northwestern. On the inbounds, Hutson slipped under the Tabor defense and was fouled on the layup to set up the game-winning free throw.
Overall the game featured seven ties and 15 lead changes with neither side holding more than a seven-point advantage at any point.
Overall, Northwestern shot 42.9 percent (24-of-56) from the field, but struggled with 20 turnovers. The Red Raiders were dominant in the paint, holding a 34-16 advantage on points in the paint.
Tabor, which was making its fifth national championship appearance and first since 2007, was led in scoring by junior guard Tonisha Dean’s 14 points. Sophomore guard Mallory Zuercher also posted double figures for the Bluejays with 11 points, nine of which came in the first half.
Tabor, the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament champion, completes its season with a 21-1 overall record.