*This story was posted to MyNAIATourney.org on March 12, 2015.
No. 7 seed Ashford University (Iowa) pulled off the upset against the 2013 national champions and heavily favored No. 2 seed Indiana Wesleyan University in the first round of the DII NAIA Women’s National Championship Tournament. The Saints earned their first tournament win in school history, while the Wildcats’ first round exit was just the second in the program’s storied history.
Ashford was led by senior Sarah Vozel, who scored a team-high 17 points and got five rebounds. The Saints also got a big contribution from senior Madison Wagner who added 16 points and three rebounds of her own.
Ashford came out on an absolute tear offensively, starting the game on a 7-0 run before then going up 11-2 with 14:04 left in the half. Senior guard Quinn Rear started going early, draining three of four three-pointers.
The Saints completely shut down the Wildcats with their suffocating defense while managing to continue to pile it on offensively. The Saints forced Indiana Wesleyan to shoot just 29 percent from the field and 0 for 8 for three pointers. They built on that early nine-point lead to eventually amass an astonishing 24-2 lead with 9:39 left in the first half.
After a Wildcat timeout, Indiana Wesleyan started chipping away at the deficit. They responded offensively, trimming the lead to 14 with 3:46 left. Senior Emma Stahl led the Wildcats with eight points and three rebounds in the first half.
Wagner led the Saints with 12 points and three rebounds at the break. Ashford led Indiana Wesleyan 38-19 at halftime.
The second half told quite a different story, as Indiana Wesleyan jumped out to a 12-0 run and got the lead down to single digits thanks to senior Erika Isham. Isham finished the game with a team-high 13 points and five rebounds.
The Wildcats’ early second half defense lived up to the hype and didn’t allow a bucket for almost seven minutes.
After scoring their first bucket of the half with 13:30 left, Ashford’s shots started to fall once again and they were up 47-34 with 11:18 left. The Saints looked to be pulling away—up 16 points over halfway through the half, but the Wildcats wouldn’t quit and trimmed the lead to 10 with 3:29 left in the game.
Ashford iced the game after knocking down a few free throws and held on to win 66-50. They move on to play the winner of No. 3 seed Hastings (NE) vs. No. 6 seed Rio Grande (Ohio) on Friday at 5:15 p.m.
Despite the buzz the upset caused here in Sioux City, Ashford Head Coach Kelly Kruger hopes his team can keep this win in perspective.
“It’s a good win. I’m happy for the two seniors on the court,” Kruger said. “It’s a good quality win for us and our kids and hopefully we’ll keep it in perspective and be able to respond later on.”