MARION, Ind. - To say that Marian University is "on the move and making history" is the only way to describe the fifth-seeded Marian University women's basketball team historic 76-55 upset victory over No. 7-ranked and top-seeded Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats in Luckey Arena in Marion, Ind., on Friday night.
"These ladies played a great game tonight and believed that we could beat a solid team," said an emotional and ecstatic head coach Todd Bacon
. "The first half was a bit of a question mark, but we came out and hit shots in the second half. We were able to execute the way we wanted on offense, and on defense we played exactly the way I expect our team to play."
The Knights started slowly, but stayed right with the No. 7-ranked Wildcats until the 6:17 mark when a three-point play put the Wildcats up by 10 at 27-17. The Knights had cut the lead from seven to one when IWU went on a 9-0 run to take the 10-point lead. But, unlike past contests with IWU, the Knights did not fold under the pressure of a double-digit deficit.
Instead, freshman Natalie Robinson (Wingate, Ind./Fountain Central)
hit a three-pointer to spark a 9-0 run. Freshman Rachel Turk (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield)
capped the run with a put-back on a missed free throw to cut the lead back to one at 27-26 with 3:41 remaining in the half. IWU was able to push the lead back to six, but sophomore Rachel Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville)
hit two buckets late in the frame to cut it back to two, 32-30, heading into the locker room at the half.
"The run toward the end of the half made us believe," said Bacon. "We believed that we could play with this strong team and proved that we could hang with the best in our conference."
MU shot 57 percent (13-of-23) in the first half and held the Wildcats to just 37 percent (11-of-30). The Knights also out-rebounded IWU by a 21-11 margin in the half, but turned the ball over 13 times for 13 IWU points.
The question that loomed over the gym was whether or not the Knights could carry that momentum into the second half. They did exactly that.
After tying the game with the opening bucket of the frame, IWU scored the next four points to take a four-point lead, 36-32, with 17:31 to go. After freshman Whitley Emerson (Speedway, Ind./Speedway)
sank a layup and IWU split a pair of free throws, Robinson stepped up and buried another three-pointer to knot the score, 37-37, with 15:35 remaining. IWU scored to retake the lead, but sophomore Emily Smithson (Selma, Ind./Wapahani)
drove the lane and got fouled on a good layup to tie the game. She sank the free throw to give MU a 40-39 lead with 14:56 to go. It was at that point the Knights made history.
The lead moved to six with 12:37 to play and, after two minutes of exchanging baskets, a three-pointer by senior Megan Egenolf (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield)
with 8:24 remaining gave the Knights a nine-point lead at 52-43. The two teams exchanged buckets over the next 1:59 and the nine-point lead remained intact, 58-49, with 6:25 to go.
The Knights then finished the Wildcats off with a 7-0 run over the next 1:51 to take a 16-point lead at 65-49 with 4:34 remaining. A Robinson three-pointer pushed the lead to 17 before the Knights went to the line and finished off the 21-point upset victory, 76-55.
They held IWU to just six points over the final 4:34 to earn their first-ever post-season victory at Indiana Wesleyan University and second road win in 13 MCC Tournament road contests.
The Knights shot 68 percent (15-of-22) the second half and held IWU to just 32 percent (10-of-31) including 0-of-8 from three-point range. MU also finished the game 60 percent (6-of-10) from long distance out-rebounded the Wildcats by a 39-22 margin for the game.
The most impressive statistic was that the Knights had just six turnovers in the second half compared to the 13 from the first half.
Four Knights finished in double figures with Robinson and Kenney each notching a game-high 19 points. Egenolf hit for 14 points, while Smithson tallied 11 points. Kenney and senior Kristin Houck (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg)
each grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Smithson finished with a team-high four assists, while Robinson added a game-high three steals.
The fifth-seeded Knights (19-13) head to the No. 2-seeded University of Saint Francis (Ind.) on Monday night for the MCC Tournament championship game in Fort Wayne, Ind. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. and the game will air LIVE