A young HU squad (5-3, 1-2) gave NAIA 18th-ranked Bethel College (10-0, 3-0) all it could handle for 35 minutes, but the Pilots got enough offense from their big guns down the stretch to foil the Foresters' upset bid 81-73.
In the first half, the lead went back and forth for the first 16 minutes of play, but HU out-scored Bethel 13-9 over the final four minutes to take a 40-36 lead to the locker room.
The Pilots kept it close early in the second half as two Brittany Cook free throws pulled Bethel within one at 48-47 with 16:24 on the clock. HU then put together a 15-3 run over the next six minutes to take its largest lead of the game at 63-50 with just under 10 minutes to play. Then the wheels fell off.
Bethel stepped up its defense which, in turn, gave momentum to its offense. The Pilots out-scored HU 17-4 over a six and a half minute span to tie the score at 67 with 3:26 to go. Brittney Bateman scored on a driving layup to put the Foresters back in front 69-67, but Abby Noll's trey at the other end gave Bethel the lead for good at 70-69.
A turnover on HU's next possession led to two Noll free throws and a 72-69 deficit. The Foresters had two attempts to answer on their next possession, but ended up turning the ball over on the third attempt. Natalie Young then hit a turn-around jumper in the lane to make it 74-69 with 1:03 left in the game. Bethel's Nora Didrick then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and Young capitalized with another short jumper to put the game away.
Young, the MCC's leading scorer, netted 27 points in the contest. Noll added 16, Didrick finished with 15 and Alicia Barczak scored 11 off the bench for the Pilots. Amy Berry led three Foresters in double figures with 18 points. Jenna Donaldson chipped in 16 points and nine boards and Kendra Stahl added 13 points. Jessah Brumbaugh dished out a game-high seven assists.
HU shot 43% for the game while Bethel hit for 47%. The Foresters won the battle of the boards 38-33.