Score: Clarke 70, Evangel 59
Records: Evangel (5-2, 3-2), Clarke (8-1, 6-1)
Location: Ashcroft Center
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – In a matchup of the Heart of America Athletic Conference's top two offenses, it was a stingy Clarke defense that powered the visiting Pride to a 70-59 victory over the Evangel women's basketball team at the Ashcroft Center Tuesday afternoon.
Clarke limited the Crusaders to a season-low 31.7 percent field goal percentage and forced 17 Evangel turnovers, while a balanced offensive attack used an 18-5 scoring run late in the third period to wipe out an eight-point EU lead.
The Pride converted 16-of-29 (0.552) second-half field goal attempts, including 6-of-7 during its critical third-quarter run. Conversely, EU suffered through a 2-for-13 cold spell over the same span, as Clarke outscored the Crusaders by a 38-21 margin over the final 15 minutes of play.
Giana Michels led CU with 18 points and nine rebounds, turning in a 4-of-4 effort from both the foul line and three-point range, while Emma Kelchen and Makenna Haase teamed up to dominate the paint to the tune of 22 combined points — 18 of which came in the second half — and five blocks.
After turning in its own rally to erase a first-half defict and take a four-point lead into intermission, Evangel appeared poised to pull away early in the second half. Brianna Vogts converted a bucket in the paint to open the scoring, before Zoey Mullings sank a pair of free throws to give EU a 33-25 cushion.
A pair of Kelchen baskets and a Morgan Pitz trey momentarily pulled the Pride to within three, but Alexis Cauthon answered for the Crusaders with a three-pointer to give her club a 38-32 edge with 5:15 to play in the third.
But Kelchen's bucket at the 4:52 mark ignited a Pride offense that entered the game averaging 75.9 points per game — second only to Evangel's 78.8 average in the Heart Conference. From there, Kelchen converted another field goal in the paint, before Tina Ubl scored to make it a two-point game, and Nicole McDermott connected from long range gave the Pride its first lead since early in the second period.
After a Bayley Harman free throw tied the score at 43-43, Michels string of five unanswered points put Clark on top to stay. Pitz connected on a jumper as well, stretching the CU lead to 50-43.
EU cut the margin to 50-48 on a pair of Vogts free throws early in the fourth, but Haase connected in the paint for the first two of her nine fourth-quarter points to give the Pride some breathing room. Two Ubl free throws and another Haase basket extended the margin to 55-48.
The Crusaders would trim the deficit to 61-57 with just over two minutes to play thanks to a Vogts basket and three straight points by Harman, but that would be as close as they would get. Pitz and Michels connected on three-point tries and Haase added one final field goal during an 8-0 run that clinched the win for the Pride.
Haase finished with 11 points, six boards and four blocks, helping CU out-rebound the Crusaders by a 46-39 margin. After going 4-of-8 from beyond the arc in the first half, EU finished just 6-of-20 (0.300) from distance for the game.
Vogts, who was named the NAIA's National Player of the Week for her efforts last week Tuesday morning, paced EU with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Cauthon added a season-high 13 points and Sadie Chisum scored nine points and handed out five assists.
Evangel will host Our Lady of the Lake Friday (Dec. 18) afternoon for a 2 p.m. game at the Ashcroft Center.
For the latest information on Evangel Athletics, follow the Crusaders on Facebook at Facebook.com/EUAthletics, Twitter (@EUAthletics), or visit EvangelAthletics.com. Fans can also receive updates on the team by downloading the new Evangel Crusaders GamedayApp through Google Play.