SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Box Score) Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) shook off a rough offensive first half and avoided falling victim to upset-minded Asbury (Ky.). The Wolves overcame a three-point halftime deficit and claimed a 50-43 win over the unranked Eagles in the first round of the 2015 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by State Farm, in Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday morning.
Head coach John Pfaffl’s Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference champion squad improved to 28-4 overall. Meanwhile, head coach Jason Price’s Eagles, making their first-ever appearance on the national stage, ended their season with a record of 25-8.
While Stritch had difficulty putting the ball in the basket, the Wolves hounded Asbury on the other end to escape with the victory. With the score tied at 38-38 in the final three minutes, Stritch got a baseline jumper from Emily Neitzel and then a layup from Becky Gilbreath off the dish from Emily Rudkin. A long two-point jumper from Haley Ream made it a 6-0 run and put away an Eagle squad that shot only 28.1 percent (16-for-57) for the game.
Asbury season leading scorer Brittany Warren went just 3-for-13 from the field. Her final field goal came on an impressive crossover dribble that preceded a trey in the waning seconds. Warren had nine points. Kylee Gorby tallied 10 and was the Eagles’ only double-figure scorer.
Both Neitzel (12 points and nine rebounds) and Gilbreath (10 points) piled up 10 points or more for the Wolves, who shot 35.9 percent (19-for-53) in the contest.
Both teams were held well below their season scoring averages. Cardinal Stritch entered the tournament averaging 68.5 points per game. Asbury came into the game scoring 81.4 points per game (seventh-most among all NAIA Division II teams).
Asbury had momentum early when Catie Fletcher drilled a deep triple to put the Eagles in front, 17-16, as part of a 14-4 run that provided a three-point lead at the half. During the spurt, Cardinal Stritch went five minutes without scoring and totaled just four points over the final 11 minutes of the opening half. The Wolves shot 20.7 percent (6-for-29) from the field in the opening half while struggling to finish at the rim.Cardinal Stritch now advances to play No. 3 Jamestown (25-6) at 12 p.m. CDT on Friday in the second round. The Wolves 13-18 all-time at the national tournament. They reached the national semifinals in 2014.