BILLINGS, Mont. – [BOX SCORE] A series of clutch free throws from senior Jordan Closter closed a close game as seven-seed Benedictine (Kan.) upset two-seed Columbia (Mo.) 68-59 in the first game of the 2018 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship presented by Wells Fargo.
The game was tied at 48 all entering the fourth quarter, and BC went on an immediate 6-0 run. Columbia answered back with an 8-2 run of their own, but the Raven’s Kristen Murphy hit a three with 4:15 left on the clock and Benedictine never looked back.
Columbia closed within 3 points with 48 seconds remaining, but Benedictine hit a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line after that to keep the lead. Of those 6 free throws, 4 were hit by Closter.
Both teams shot the lights out in the first quarter, particularly from 3-point range. Benedictine shot 62 percent from distance in the first 10 minutes, while Columbia did even better, hitting 4-5. Those numbers cooled off on both sides, but the Ravens had enough scoring to start the second on a 7-2 run that had them out to an 11-point lead.
Freshman point guard Brynn Maul was key for Benedictine. She came into the game averaging just over 6 points per game, but she was already at that number after the first quarter, hitting 2 threes. By the end of the second half, she had 11, 2 points shy of her career high. She ended up setting a new career high with 16 points by the end of the game.
Her efforts and 10 points from senior Kristen Murphy, the team’s leading scorer, had the Ravens ahead 37-29 at the half.
With 43 seconds left in the third quarter, Raegan Wieser hit a three to give Columbia its first lead since 8:44 in the first quarter. The Ravens tied it up before the quarter ended and the Cougars never led again.
The game’s leading scorer was Columbia’s sophomore Jordan Alford with 19 points, well above her 10.8 ppg average. This marks the second straight year that the Cougars bow out of the tournament in the first round despite being the favorite. As a 3-seed in 2017, they lost to 6-seed University of Montana Western.
Benedictine advances beyond the first round for the first time since the 2015-16 season when they made the semifinals. The Ravens will play the winner of 3-seed LSU-Shreveport and 6-seed Menlo (Calif.) on Friday, March 16 at 9 a.m. MT.