Lady Vikings shock No. 8 Evangel
SPRINGFIELD -- Evangel University's bid to run the table on the Heart of America Conference's women's basketball teams was spoiled Thursday by visiting Missouri Valley, which led from wire to wire in upsetting the eighth-ranked Lady Crusaders, 64-58.
"That was huge, a big confidence-builder," declared MVC head coach Bill Wolf, whose team had lost five of its previous six games. "To beat them on the road, yet, that was really something."
One of the big differences was the Lady Vikings' play against freshman forward Tasha Neal. Although she wound up with 19 points, one more than during the previous meeting, Valley made it harder -- limiting her to five-of-13 shooting from the field.
"Neal was the one we were concerned about," Wolf admitted. "They flashed her out to the top of the key. We tried to keep the ball out of there, have the guards match up until the post could help out."
The Lady Crusaders shot just 32.7 percent from the floor during the contest, below even the 37.3 percent the league's stingiest defense against field goals normally allows.
"We really were intense on defense," forcing 22 turnovers, Wolf said. "We talked about how we needed to leave it all on the court."
The Lady Vikings led by as many as 15 points during the first half and took a nine-point advantage into the second half. Valley built the margin back to 12, but Evangel charged back -- closing to 60-57 with a minute remaining.
However, the Lady Crusaders were stopped on three straight possessions and MVC made its free throws, converting 13 of 21 during the second half. By holding their own on the boards (41-18) and holding their own giveaways to 15, the Lady Vikings were able to get more scoring chances than Evangel (21-6, 16-1 HAAC).
"Our guard play has really improved," Wolf said, pointing to the work of juniors Amy Fink and Dana Earls -- who had just two turnovers between them. "That's making a huge difference."
Earls and senior Candice Fields each scored 12 points and sophomore Tali Hoffstetter tallied 10 for Valley. Earls and Fink had seven rebounds apiece and senior Dana Conyers contributed five boards and five assists. The Lady Vikings (11-17, 7-10) return home Saturday to face Culver-Stockton.
"They've seen they can beat anybody," Wolf remarked.
So can the top-ranked Evangel men, the NAIA's only undefeated team, which kept its perfect record intact by smashing Valley, 84-55.
The Crusaders shot 52 percent from the field during the first half, compared to a woeful 24 percent for the visitors. Senior Bryan Osterloh scored final 13 points of the half for Evangel, which led by 15 at the break en route to its school-record 24th straight win.
Senior Daniel Cutbirth led all scorers with 23 points and Osterloh finished with 19 points for the Crusaders (24-0, 17-0). Freshman Chris Schulze and sophomore Jared Sanderson combined for 21 points for the Vikings (7-22, 3-14), who take a seven-game losing streak into Saturday's home tilt with Culver-Stockton.