FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Survive and stay alive was what University of Saint Francis Head Coach Gary Andrews emphasized addressing his NAIA No. 1 Lady Cougars after a 66-51 win over Spring Arbor University in the first round of the Crossroads League Tournament on Tuesday night.
The Lady Cougars improved to a program record 31-0 earning a semifinal berth back at Hutzell Athletic Center on Friday against No. 5-seed Marian University at 7 p.m. The Knights advanced to a rematch with USF after springing a 71-67 upset at No. 4-seed Grace College on Wednesday night.
“We had to get the job done on defense tonight,” Andrews said after picking up his 290th win at USF. “Offensively, we struggled. Give Spring Arbor some credit, but we’ve got to do a better job of finishing shots that we did tonight.”
Brooke Ridley led the Lady Cougars offensively finished with 24 points and she swatted away three more SAU shots while grabbing six rebounds. Jenelle Wilson added 15 points while securing seven rebounds and Skylarr Shurn finished with 14 points ending a string of four consecutive games scoring 20 or more points.
“The main thing is to win at this point,” Andrews observed.
The game was tied once at two, but Ridley scored to break the tie and USF led the rest of the way, though it never felt comfortable. Bri Rinehart came off the USF bench and nailed a 3-pointer with 21 seconds to play in the first half giving the Lady Cougars their first double-digit lead 31-21 and that’s how the score stood at halftime.
SAU (11-18) clawed back to within five, 32-27, at 17:45 on a Carlie Newman bucket, and hung around for the next four minutes. Two Lindsey Burnside free throws drew SAU back within five, 39-34, with 13: 25 to play. USF took charge from that point outscoring SAU 11-0 to open up a 50-34 lead when Wilson drove and scooped up a score at 9:18.
USF maintained a double-digit cushion the rest of the way to improve to 57-6 when ranked No. 1 while improving to 41-9 in CLT competition, 65-23 in overall post-season play.
“My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball in a position to score,” Ridley said. “I just had to finish shots. Now we look forward to Friday night.”
“Brooke did a great job on both ends of the floor tonight,” Andrew said. “So did Jenelle.”
The Lady Cougars won at Marian 73-66 on Jan. 18 and 83-71 at HAC on Feb. 15.