*This story was posted to MyNAIATourney.org on March 12, 2015.
The No. 2 seed Cardinal Stritch University Wolves survived a scare and took down No. 7 seed Asbury University by a score of 50-43, thanks to a strong performance from junior guard Emily Neitzel, who dropped 12 points and hauled in nine rebounds.
Cardinal Stritch, whose defense was ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense and fifth nationally in field goal percentage defense coming into today, proved their worth and kept the high-scoring Eagles grounded for much of the game.
With the win, the Wolves extended their total wins to 28 on the season and improved their overall record in first round tournament games to 9-10. The loss sends the Eagles packing in their first ever appearance in the NAIA D2 Women’s National Tournament.
The offensive output in the first half was pedestrian. Cardinal Stritch managed just 16 points, making only 6 of 19 for shots for a measly 20 percent first half field goal percentage. Asbury, who averaged 81.4 points per game on the year, wasn’t much better. The Eagles managed just 19 points in 31 first half shots.
The Eagles were led by junior guard Catie Fletcher, who finished with five points and three rebounds in the first half. Cardinal Stritch senior standout Michelle Piepenburg managed five points and four rebounds to lead the Wolves.
Asbury led Cardinal Stritch by a score of 19-16 at halftime.
In the second half, offense was once again hard to come by. Asbury maintained control early, holding on to a 22-21 lead with 16:20 in the half. But the Wolves’ patience and half-court offense helped them take a 31-30 lead midway through the second half.
Junior Kylee Gorby led carried the Eagles offensively, finishing with 10 points on three of seven shooting. The Wolves also got contributions from seniors Piepenburg and Becky Gilbreath. Piepenburg finished with seven points and seven rebounds, while Gilbreath added 10 points and three rebounds of her own.
The Wolves forced enough stops to hold a four-point lead with just two minutes remaining in the game. After a missed Asbury shot, sophomore guard Haley Ream stroked a mid-range jumper as the shot clock expired to push the Wolves’ lead to six with 1:05 remaining.
The Wolves’ sank six free-throws down the stretch to seal the victory. Cardinal Stritch Head Coach John Pfaffl was happy with his team’s team defense and overall effort.
“I was really happy with our defense. We have to win with defense,” Pfaffl said. “Overall, I liked how we were resilient, fought through things and finished strong.”
Cardinal Stritch will move on to take on Jamestown (N.D.) University on Friday at 12 p.m.