Morningside rallied from a double figure deficit to defeat Oklahoma Wesleyan 74-66 and move on to the NAIA II Elite Eight. Photo / Gene Knudsen
No. 1-ranked Morningside avoided a huge upset scare when it rallied from a 17-point deficit to defeat No. 17 Oklahoma Wesleyan 74-66 in Friday’s second round action of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Tournament in Sioux City’s Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena.
The Mustangs will take a 34-1 record into a 6 p.m. Saturday quarterfinal round matchup against reigning NAIA II National Champion University of Saint Francis. The ninth-ranked Cougars, 25-9, punched their Elite Eight ticket with a 64-42 win against No. 8 Tennessee Wesleyan.
Oklahoma Wesleyan, which led for most of the game, closed the books on a 27-7 campaign.
Morningside had to overcome a chilly 37.7 percent shooting performance and an uncharacteristic 26 turnovers to move on. The Mustangs trailed by as many as 17 points, 41-24, with less than one minute left in the first half, and trailed by double figures for a good portion of the second half.
Allison Bachman came off the bench to help rescue the Mustangs with a game and season’s high 17 points to go along with a season’s high six rebounds. Bachman made five of seven field goal attempts and converted seven of eight free throw bids.
Madison Braun also had a big game with 14 points and a season’s high seven rebounds, while Jordyn Wollenburg went for a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds to match her career high.
Jessica Tietz and Lexi Ackerman just missed double figures with eight points each, and Taylor Bahensky and Lauren Lehmkuhl each had seven.
Nichole Tate had a double-double of 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds for the Eagles. She also led all performers with four assists and four steals. Courtney Robinson contributed 13 points off the bench and Eagle starters Susan Agesen and Kayla Morgan each had 12 tallies.
Morningside outrebounded the Eagles 52-38.
Oklahoma Wesleyan made only 18 of 60 field goal attempts for 30.0 percent, including a woeful 24.1 percent shooting performance in the second half. The Eagles, one of the most prolific 3-point shooting teams in the nation, made only one of 15 3-point shots in the second half after they had buried seven of 17 attempts in the first half.
The Mustangs found themselves in a 42-29 hole at the intermission following an opening 20 minutes where they made only eight of 28 floor shots for 28.6 percent and committed 13 turnovers in comparison to only seven miscues by the Eagles. Almost half of the Mustangs’ shots came from beyond the 3-point arc, where they misfired on all 12 of their attempts. Oklahoma Wesleyan did much of its first half scoring from the arc, where Courtney Robinson (three-for-three) and Kayla Morgan (three-for-four) combined to make six of seven shots.
The Mustangs led in the early going and held a 10-4 advantage five minutes into the game. The Eagles tied the score at 10-10 after Morgan struck for back-to-back 3-pointers before the Mustangs used a conventional 3-point play by Tietz to go up 13-10 with 12:54 left in the half. However, the Mustangs went 10 minutes without a field goal and fell behind 34-20 before Mandy Osborne broke the drought with a basket in the lane with 2:50 left in the half.
Oklahoma Wesleyan eventually increased its lead to 17 points, 41-24, with 43 seconds left in the half before the Mustangs used a pair of free throws by Braun and a 3-point play by Bachman to creep within 42-29 at the intermission.
The Eagles led by 12 points, 52-40, with 13:43 left in the game before the momentum shifted. Bachman ignited the Mustangs’ come back when she scored three straight Morningside baskets to start a 16-3 scoring run that saw the Mustangs take the lead at 56-55 on a turnaround baseline jumper by Lehmkuhl with 6:05 left in the game.
Oklahoma Wesleyan took one last lead when Agesen struck from 3-point distance to put the Eagles up 58-56 with 5:14 left. Braun answered with a 3-pointer to put the Mustangs back in front 59-58 with 4:59 left. After Agesen made a free throw to tie the score at 59-59, Bachman put Morningside ahead to stay, 61-59, when she scored off an offensive rebound with 4:20 remaining.
Morningside led 66-64 and closed the game out when Bachman went six-for-six and Braun went two-for-two from the free-throw line during the last two minutes.