Fifth-ranked Morningside rolled past Point Park University 83-52 in the first round of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship Tournament.

Ashlynn Muhl

Fifth-ranked Morningside overcame a sluggish start and rolled past unranked Point Park University 83-52 in Thursday’s first round action of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship Tournament at Sioux City’s Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena.

The Mustangs, regular season champions of the GPAC, won for the 13th time in their last 14 games and will take a 28-6 record into a second round contest against College of Saint Mary on Friday at 8:45 p.m.

Point Park, the regular season and post-season tournament champion of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC), came in with the third highest victory total of the tournament field and bowed out with a final record of 29-5.

Morningside, which captured NAIA II National Championships in 2004, 2005, and 2009, posted an opening round triumph for the 11th year in a row and improved its all-time record in national tournament play to 29-9 for an impressive .763 victory rate.

Ashlynn Muhl paced the Mustangs with 17 points and 10 rebounds for her team-high ninth double-double of the season. She led the Mustangs in rebounding for the 21st time in the 33 games she has played this season.

Allison Bachman

Muhl was Morningside’s only scorer in double figures, but Allison Bachman was close with nine tallies, Jessica Tietz and Mandy Osborne each had eight, and Lexi Ackerman, Jordyn Wollenburg, Lacey Lehmann, and MaKayla Augustine formed a four-player contingent at six.

Muhl’s 10 rebounds led the Mustangs to a 48-44 advantage on the boards against a Point Park team that ranked fourth nationally with an average of 46.8 rebounds per game.

Carly Forse led Point Park with 18 points and eight rebounds. Sam Weier, the Pioneers’ leading scorer and rebounder, was limited to 12 point and five rebounds before she fouled out, and Katresa Savisky added 10 tallies.

Morningside’s shooters warmed up from a shaky first half to finish with a mark of 39.5 percent from the field. Point Park connected on only 32.7 percent of its floor shots as the Mustangs held their opponent under 40 percent for the 23rd time this season.

The first half was an offensive struggle for both teams. Morningside made just one of its first 11 field goal attempts of the game, but trailed only 6-5 at the 13-minute mark thanks to six Point Park turnovers in the first seven minutes.

The Mustangs made only 12 of 37 first half field goal attempts for a dismal 32.4 percent, but their offensive woes were nothing compared to the offensive struggles of their opponent. The Pioneers made just six of 26 floors shots for an ice cold 23.1 percent and their shooting woes were compounded by a whopping 17 first half turnovers.

Despite their offensive struggles, the Pioneers took a 10-9 lead at the 10:36 mark of the opening half on a basket by Weir, Point Park’s star player and only representative on the All-KIAC team.

Morningside took the lead for good when Muhl scored off a feed from Leann Osten to go up 11-10 with 11:23 left in the half.

A pivotal moment of the first half came when Weir exited after her second foul with 8:50 left and the Mustangs up 15-12. The Pioneers kept Weir, who came into the tournament with 14 double doubles, on the bench for the rest of the half and the Mustangs took advantage, outscoring Point Park 20-6 the rest of the way to open a 35-18 advantage by the intermission.

Morningside pushed its lead past 20 points on a basket by Jordyn Wollenburg to go up 53-32 with 14:03 left in the second half, expanded it to 31 points (81-50) on a 3-pointer by MaKayla Augustine with three minutes left, and increased the advantage to a game-high 32 points when Ashley Schroeder scored off an assist from Molly Fischer with 2:32 left to make it 83-51.