Doug Self, Sports Information Director
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Making their NCAA Division II Elite Eight debut, the SWOSU Women’s Basketball team forced 31 turnovers to offset a poor shooting night and defeated Saint Anselm, 71-61, in the national quarterfinals on Tuesday afternoon at Alumni Hall.
With the victory, SWOSU advances to the national semifinals, where they will meet the No. 3-seed in the bracket, #14/18-ranked Indiana (Pa.), who advanced with a 73-60 defeat of No. 6-seed Azusa Pacific in the first matchup on Tuesday. SWOSU and IUP will tip off at 5:00 pm on Wednesday evening, with the game being broadcast live on CBS Sports Network.
The Lady Bulldogs struggled shooting the ball throughout the game, especially from long range, where they finished 6-of-29 (20.7%), but the biggest difference was defensively as SWOSU turned 31 turnovers from Saint Anselm into 30 points off turnovers. SWOSU also finished with 20 fast break points, compared to six by the Hawks.
A slow start from the field had the Lady Dawgs facing their largest deficit of the game at 9-4 less than four minutes into the game, but Bethany Franks jumpstarted a 10-0 run that put SWOSU up midway through the quarter. Hailey Tucker and Hayden Priddy got into the action, combining for the final five points of the quarter to help SWOSU lead 16-13 at the end of one.
The lead changed hands three times in the second quarter, with SWOSU regaining the advantage for good on a three-pointer from Tucker with 5:52 to play in the half. The advantage was pushed to six with 3:22 to play on a driving attempt from Priddy, but Saint Anselm cut it back to three at halftime, 34-31, after a pair of free throws in the closing seconds.
Bethany Franks came out of the locker room firing and scored eight of SWOSU’s first 10 points in the third quarter before Tucker pushed the lead to double digits for the first time with a pair of free throws that made it 48-38 with 4:15 to play in the quarter. The Lady Dawgs slowly cooled off in the third, scoring the final four points of the quarter at the free throw line to take a 54-48 lead to the fourth.
SWOSU went over four minutes without a basket in the fourth quarter, but defensively they limited the Hawks scoring chances and never allowed Saint Anselm to get the game tied. Leading 56-54 with just under four and a half to play, it was Franks who hit the shot of the game as she stepped out on the perimeter for a corner three-pointer that pushed the lead back to five, a margin that SWOSU would maintain the rest of the game.
The jumper from Franks jumpstarted a 15-2 run by the Lady Bulldogs that clinched the game, pushing the lead as high as 15 at 71-56 before the Hawks scored the final five points of the game.
Playing on a team with a pair of All-American teammates, it was Franks who did the most damage for SWOSU on Tuesday, flirting with a triple double as she scored 18 points while pulling down nine rebounds and grabbing a single-game school record nine steals, many of which came as Saint Anselm was attempting to enter the ball into their post players.
Tucker finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, four steals and one blocked shots while Hayden Priddy came through with 15 points, three rebounds and two steals despite battling foul trouble for much of the afternoon. Tyra Aska also reached double figures, scoring 11 points with six rebounds and two assists. Reserves Maddie Sperle (six points) and Taber Beer (four points, five assists) rounded out the scoring for SWOSU in the contest.
“I’m extremely proud of my girls right now, we’re excited to have this opportunity to play another game and continue to make history for our program,” SWOSU Head Coach Kelsi Musick said following the contest. “I thought our defense and full court pressure was huge tonight, allowing us to force a lot of turnovers. We didn’t convert it into as many points as we may have liked and we didn’t shoot the ball as well as we wanted, but we found a way to get the win and we’re looking forward to coming back to play again tomorrow.”
With the victory, SWOSU improves to 34-1 on the year, matching the single-season school record for victories while also giving this year’s senior class their 100th career victory. Next up for the Lady Bulldogs is the national semifinal matchup with Indiana (Pa.), which will take place at 5:00 pm (CST) on Wednesday in Columbus, with another Watch Party scheduled at the Pioneer Cellular Event Center in Weatherford.