No. 3 seed Marian University (Ind.) shocked the world on Saturday evening, upsetting the defending national champion Morningside Mustangs 76-69 in front of packed, Mustang home crowd. Lakan Hasser-Smith led the Knights with 19 points on 7 of 16 shooting. In the loss, Morningside’s Jessica Tietz finished with a game-high 31 points and 14 rebounds.
“We knew we had to play perfect today. We didn’t play perfect 100 percent, but we played as pretty close as we could,” Marian Head Coach Katie Gearlds said. “It was a combination of us hitting shots and them missing shots.”
Marian seemed un-phased that they were playing the defending national champions in a de facto home game for No. 1 seed Morningside. The Knights shot 42 percent from the field, 30 percent from three and outscored the Mustangs 22-16 on points in the paint in the first half.
The Knights jumped out to a lead in the first quarter, thanks to a balanced scoring attack from a number of players in the first half. Lakan Hasser-Smith led Marian with eight first half, while Anastacia Kirby and Jessica Almeida added seven and six of their own.
Despite exiting the game for a brief time for an apparent ankle injury, Tietz carried the load for Morningside, finishing the half with 13 points and six rebounds on 6 of 9 shooting. The Mustangs struggled from behind the arc early, shooting just 14 percent on 2 of 14 shooting.
Ultimately, three pointers were the keys to the game. Marian outshot Morningside 10 three’s to two and outshot them to 38 percent to seven percent for the Mustangs.
“It’s been a long time since we shot the ball that well from the perimeter,” Gearlds said. “Our kids stepped up and knocked them down.”
Madison Braun knocked down a three early in the second quarter and after a flagrant foul called against Marian, Wollenburg knocked down a pair of free throws to trim the lead to three. Almeida and Sarah Brewer knocked down a pair baskets to put the Knights up by three with just under six minutes remaining.
Lauren Lehmkuhl and Hasser-Smith traded old-fashioned three-point plays, before Kellie Kirkhoff buried a three-pointer to send the Knights into the locker room with a 39-34 lead.
Marian committed two straight turnovers to start the second half, which allowed the Mustangs to chip away at the deficit. Ackerman and Tietz scored quickly cutting the lead to four. Almedia and Kirkoff each got a bucket midway through the quarter, but Tietz refused to go away. She knocked down a jumper and a free throw to bring the defending champs back within seven.
Marian hit big-time bucket after big-time bucket in the fourth quarter. Hasser-Smith canned an early three and two possessions later, Sarah Brewer knocked down a corner three-pointer to extend the lead to six. Kellie Kirkhoff and Jenna Sullivan knocked down three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to neutralize the crowd and take away all momentum from the Mustangs.
Hasser-Smith knocked down two more late baskets to put the Knights up seven with 1:36 remaining. Morningside attempted a last-ditch effort, but they simply ran out of time.
With the win, Marian advances to the semifinals and will take on the winner of the Southern Oregon-Tabor game. Despite the win, Marian is not satisfied with their performances thus far.
“We’re not done here,” Hasser-Smith said. “We just have to keep pushing because we have a lot left to do.”