Madison Braun scored a career-high 30 points to lead No. 1-ranked Morningside into the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Tournament. Photo / Gene Knudsen
Madison Braun poured in a career-high 30 points to shoot No. 1-ranked Morningside into the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Tournament with an 84-65 triumph against No. 13 Cardinal Stritch in Friday’s second round action in Sioux City.
The Mustangs, the reigning NAIA II National Champions, will take a 33-2 record and a 14-game winning streak into a 3 p.m. matchup against No. 9 Marian (29-6) in Saturday’s quarterfinals.
Morningside is in the NAIA II Elite Eight for the ninth time during the tenure of head coach Jamie Sale, who moved within one triumph of 500 career coaching victories with Friday’s win. Sale has a career record of 499-126, including a 420-106 mark at Morningside.
To get to the quarterfinals, the Mustangs first had to overcome a national tournament jinx against Cardinal Stritch. Morningside had lost its previous two national tournament meetings with the Wolves, including an 82-71 setback in the 2014 quarterfinals and an 80-60 defeat in the second round of the 2006 tournament when the Mustangs were coming off back-to-back national championship seasons.
The 2014 setback against Cardinal Stritch is the last time the Mustangs have lost a game away from their home court. Friday’s second round victory against the Wolves was the Mustangs’ school-record 37th consecutive triumph outside of the Rosen Verdoorn Sports Center.
Braun’s long range shooting accuracy put an end to the Mustangs’ past tournament woes against Cardinal Stritch. The sophomore sharpshooter drilled 11 of 13 floor shots, including a dazzling six-for-seven display from the 3-point arc, en route to her career-high 30-point scoring performance. Braun, whose previous scoring best of 26 points came in a regular season victory against city rival Briar Cliff, has produced the four highest scoring performances of her Morningside career during the team’s last seven games.
Braun was joined in double figures by Lexi Ackerman with 18 points and Jordyn Wollenburg with 14 tallies. Braun did much of her scoring from the free-throw line, where she converted 12 of 13 attempts, while Wollenburg finished just one point shy of her career scoring best with her 14 points. Jessica Tietz just missed double figures with eight points. Lauren Lehmkuhl was next with six.
Mika Passini and Emily Neitzel each scored 13 points for Cardinal Stritch, which bowed out with a 24-9 record.
Tietz and Ackerman each had seven rebounds for Morningside, which was outboarded 39-34 to lose the battle of the boards for only the seventh time all season.
Morningside put up 84 points against a Cardinal Stritch team that entered the contest second in the nation in team scoring defense with an average of 54.6 points per game. The Wolves’ previous 32 opponents had managed a dismal field goal shooting mark of just 34.9 percent, but Cardinal Stritch shot just 34.9 percent against Morningside with 22 hoops in 63 attempts while the Mustangs, the NAIA II national leader in team field goal percentage, finished the game at 50.0 percent behind a 27-for-54 shooting effort. The Mustangs also shot 50 percent from the 3-point arc, where they were 10-for-20, and converted 20 of 23 free throw bids for 87.0 percent.
The Mustangs led 13-11 after the first quarter and then rode a big second quarter to build a 39-30 lead by the intermission. The Mustangs bombed in three 3-point field goals to go along with a pair of conventional 3-point plays in a second stanza where they outscored the Wolves by a 26-19 margin.
Morningside pushed its lead into double figures on a fast break layup by Braun to take a 28-18 lead with 5:38 left in the second quarter. The Mustangs led by as many as 13 points on two occasions in the second quarter, the last time at 34-21 when Ackerman made a free throw with 2:34 left in the half.
The Mustangs had some anxious moments when Tietz, their leading scorer and rebounder, went to the bench with her fourth foul less than two minutes into the third quarter. The Wolves crept within four points, 42-38, on a basket by Neitzel with 6:39 left in the quarter.
From that point on it was all Morningside as Taylor Bahensky bombed in a 3-point field goal from the top of the key to trigger a 13-point scoring run that saw the Mustangs extend their lead to 17 points, 55-38, on a spin move by Wollenburg in the paint with 3:44 left in the third quarter.
Morningside took a 60-49 lead into the fourth quarter and opened its largest advantage of the game on a conventional 3-point play by Wollenburg that put the Mustangs up by 23 points, 84-61, with 55.1 seconds left to play.