Morningside rolled to a 79-45 victory against UC Merced in the first round of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Tournament. Photo / Gene Knudsen

Taylor Bahensky

No. 1-ranked Morningside rolled to a 79-45 victory over unranked University of California Merced in Wednesday evening’s first round action in the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Tournament at Sioux City’s Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena.

The Mustangs, who won their national tournament first round contest for the 12th year in a row, raised their record to 33-1 heading into a second round contest against 17th-ranked Oklahoma Wesleyan slated for Friday at 7 p.m.

UC Merced, which made its way to the national tournament in only its third season of varsity basketball, finished the campaign with a 14-12 record.

Taylor Bahensky drilled seven of nine floor shots, including a perfect three-for-three effort from the 3-point arc, en route to a game-high 19 points to lead the Mustangs in scoring for the fifth game in a row. Jessica Tietz joined her in double figures with 16 points behind a perfect seven-for-seven shooting display from the field. Ashley Schroeder just missed double figures with a season’s high eight points. Allison Bachman was next with eight points, while Lexi Ackerman, Jordyn Wollenburg, and Mandy Osborne each had five.

Jessica Tietz

Morningside outrebounded UC Merced 44-34 despite a game-high 11 rebounds by the Bobcats’ Brittany Martinez, who also had 10 points to finish with a double-double. Osborne led the Mustangs with seven caroms, followed by Tietz with six.

Morningside made 30 of 63 field goal attempts for 47.6 percent, while the Bobcats hit on only 17 of their 55 floor shots for a chilly 30.9 percent.

Morningside led wire-to-wire and was never threatened as it rolled to an insurmountable 44-18 advantage by the intermission following an opening 20 minutes where UC Merced shot just 29.6 percent from the field.

The Mustangs used a 9-0 scoring run to take an early double figure lead at 21-7 nine minutes into the contest. After the Bobcats closed within 21-11, the Mustangs took off on an 18-2 run to blow the game open at 39-13.

Morningside pushed its lead over 30 points early in the second half when a 3-pointer by Bahensky made it 54-23 with 16:39 left to play. The Mustangs went up by 40 points, 72-32, on a turnaround jumper in the lane by Wollenburg with 4:35 left and opened their largest lead of the game at 41 points, 73-32, when MaKayla Augustine made a free throw with 3:51 remaining.

Box Score