Huntington, Ind. - Up against the top-ranked team in NAIA Division II, the Forester women’s basketball team (9-5, 1-3) hung with Indiana Wesleyan University through the first 34 minutes before the Wildcats pulled away for the 67-54 win at the Merillat Complex on Tuesday night.
While the fans couldn’t have asked for a more intense and well-played game, it was the Wildcats’ accuracy behind the arc that got the best of the Foresters as they knocked down 11 of their 17 threes for 64.7%. They shot an impressive 6-for-9 from 3-point land in the final twenty minutes to eventually wear down the Foresters and claim the 13-point victory.
Known for their discipline on both ends of the court, IWU lived up to their reputation and enjoyed a lead through the first 13 minutes of play but Pazia Speed finally breathed life into the Foresters when she drilled two long bombs in a two-minute span to give HU a 20-19 lead with just under five minutes remaining in the half. Five lead changes later, Liesl Davenport gave the home crowd something to cheer about when her three-pointer found nothing but the bottom of the net at the halftime buzzer to pull HU within two at 29-27.
The Wildcats methodically picked apart HU’s zone defense in the opening ten minutes of the second half to connect on three treys and extend their lead to 46-37 but a resilient Forester squad wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. A traditional three-point play by Lauren Meese, layup by Taylor Foley and three by Speed dwindled the Wildcat lead to three at 48-45 with 7:30 remaining.
But Wesleyan dipped into their offensive arsenal as three different players nailed a three within a 90-second span to quickly build their lead back to ten. It proved to be more than the Foresters could overcome as the Wildcats cruised to the win and improved to 4-0 in league play, 15-1 overall.
Speed paced the Foresters with 13 points, three assists and four steals. Davenport finished with 11 points while Meese was credited with a team-high six rebounds. Claire Freeman led a balanced Wildcat attack with 16 points. Other double digits scorers for Wesleyan included Rachel Steinbarger and Krystal Stoneking with 14 apiece and Ashley Brooks with 10. Stoneking grabbed a game-high eight rebounds.
The Foresters finished with nine turnovers to the Wildcats’ 12. HU shot 40.4% for the game (21-for-52) which included 6-for-13 behind the arc for 46.2%.
HU is back in action on Thursday when they host Mount Vernon Nazarene University for a 7:00 p.m. matchup.