The term “track meet” is often used to describe the speed or pace of a basketball game. In fact, the term is often overused. On Thursday, the term “track meet” was fitting to describe the first round game between No. 1 seed Olivet Nazarene (27-5) and No. 8 Indiana University East (22-10). Olivet Nazarene outpaced IU East to pick up a 110-99 victory.
The Tigers had four players in double figures, including Abbey Hengesbach and Maggie Schmidt, who scored 24 and 22 points respectively. Tia King had a game-high 28 points for IU East.
The Olivet Nazarene Tigers are without a doubt the most lethal offensive team in the country. Entering today’s game, they are currently ranked No. 1 in nine different offensive categories, average 16 made three-pointers per game, average 111 points per game in 2015-16 and have hit the 100 total in 27 of their 32 games. They also run something other schools could only dream of — a platoon system.
Not to be overshadowed, the IU East Red Wolves have quite the story themselves. IU East is just a second-year program and have a 10-man roster that includes seven sophomores and three freshman. Their head coach of two years, Tiffani Selhorst, literally built the program from the ground up and made them formidable in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
After the game, Selhorst candidly admitted what her initial reaction was to hearing her team had to face Olivet Nazarene.
“Oh, shoot,” she said. “There is good and bad to that. When you get hot, it’s anybody’s game, but we were down to nine players and I knew we were going to struggle to keep up for ninety minutes.”
Considering their usual gaudy offensive output, Olivet Nazarene was slowed down for much of the first half. IU East limited the Tigers to just 30% shooting on 18 of 60 shots and 18% shooting on 5 of 28 shots behind the three-point line. The Red Wolves matched the Tigers’ offensively in the first quarter and then some, scoring 30 points on 14 of 38 shooting.
After a less than stellar start, Olivet Nazarene lit it up in the second quarter, outscoring IU East 30-14. The Tigers dominated in points off of turnovers and the turnover margin, scoring 17 points to their five and forcing 18 first half turnovers to their six.
It’s ONU’s press defense that sets the tone for their offensive scheme.
“Our press definitely fuels our offense,” Olivet Nazarene Head Coach Lauren Stamatis said. “This team is a really good press team, this particular team we have this year and that’s good.”
It was Selhorst’s decision to try and match ONU’s pace that was their ultimate downfall.
“It was kind of hard on my players. We had an all-time defender in the back,” she said. “I’m not sure a lot of people have tried that before.”
Sophomore Maggie Schmidt led the Tigers with 17 points on 5 of 6 shooting. Olivet Nazarene also received first half contributions from Abbey Hengesbach, Chelsea Rhodes and Ally Giampapa, who scored nine, eight and seven points apiece. Bailey Dreiman, who scored 11, was the only Red Wolf that scored in double-digits in the first half. Olivet Nazarene led 55-44 at halftime.
Olivet Nazarene came out of the locker room gunning in the second half and quickly found the rhythm they had in the first half. The Tigers actually shot better in the second half, 46% from the field and 42% from the three-point line. IU East tried to keep up with the Tigers’ fast paced offense, but barely stayed afloat in the third quarter. Olivet Nazarene took an 18-point lead into the fourth quarter.
The Red Wolves actually outscored the Tigers in the fourth quarter, 33 to 26 in the fourth quarter, but it was to no avail. Olivet Nazarene went on a late run and outran the Red Wolves 110-99.