No. 1 seed Indiana Wesleyan stifles No. 8 Point Park with top defense in the nation
March 7, 2013 at 11:50 p.m. ET
Point Park Head Coach Tony Grenek in a post-game interview after the loss to IWU. Video by WPPJ
STATS: Box Score & Play by Play
SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- Fourth-ranked Indiana Wesleyan stifled Point Park University with the top defense in the nation, beating the Pioneers, 61-31, Thursday night in the first round of the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship being held at the Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena in Sioux City, Iowa.
The Pioneers (25-7) managed only nine field goals on the night and shot 17-percent (9 for 53) versus the top defense in the NAIA Division II of Indiana Wesleyan (31-3). Indiana Wesleyan was a No. 1 seed, and Point Park a No. 8 seed in the 32-team tournament that continues through March 12.
The Wildcats, the No. 4-ranked team in NAIA Division II, had been ranked No. 1 in the nation for much of the year before dropping back to No. 4 with a loss in its conference tournament to then-No. 4 St. Francis (Ind.) last week.
Point Park ends the year with a team-record 25 wins and its second-straight appearance in the NAIA DII national tournament. Like last year when they lost to 10th-ranked Corban (Ore.), 60-58, the Pioneers lost in the first round. Before last year, Point Park had never made it to the national tournament and had not been to a postseason of any kind for 12 seasons.
"Indiana Wesleyan is an excellent team," said Point Park head coach Tony Grenek. "We struggled to hit some shots in the first half, and we missed some bunnies. Hopefully if we would've made some of those shots, we could've made more of a game out of it. We missed some easy ones, and then they just totally locked us down the second half."
Indiana Wesleyan leads the country in scoring defense at 48.2 ppg and held Point Park to a season-low 31 points. The Pioneers were down, 29-19, at halftime. And even though it shot only 22 percent (6 for 27) the first 20 minutes, Point Park missed several opportunities from in close in the first half.
Unfortunately for Point Park, any high-percentage attempts that it had in the first half went away almost completely the second half. The Indiana Wesleyan defense made the Pioneers work it around the perimeter as Point Park was forced to chuck 3-pointers and long jumpers -- even more so in the second half than the first 20 minutes.
"There's a reason why (Indiana Wesleyan) was ranked No. 1 in the country for like 10 weeks in a row," said Grenek. "We didn't score for the first 10 minutes of the second half -- some of that is on us, but a lot of it was because of Indiana Wesleyan. They are so smart defensively the way they switch on screens and are always in help. If you're not hitting from the outside, it's really tough to get to the basket on them."
Point Park was held off the scoreboard for the first 9:31 of the second half as the Wildcats built at 46-19 lead. The Pioneers didn't get their first field goal in the second half until 7:30 to go and by that time were down, 52-23.
Indiana Wesleyan shot 41 percent for the game, but it was shooting only 36 percent at the half. The Wildcats picked it up offensively the second half and made 46-percent of their shots after halftime. A very efficient team on offense, IWU is fifth in the nation in field-goal percentage at 45 percent on the year.
The Wildcats had a good inside-outside game going with standout forward Paige Smith going to work for 17 points and eight rebounds on the inside and guards Taylor Goshert and Claire Ray each getting 14 points from the outside.
Smith, a 5-11 forward who averages a team-high 16.1 ppg and shoots 58 percent from the field, had 11 points by halftime. Goshert and Ray combined to go 5 for 8 from 3-point range, giving the Wildcats an answer to an under-sized Point Park defense that tried to pack it in to stop Smith.
Another big factor in the game was the taller Indiana Wesleyan team dominating the rebounds, 53-29, including 13 offensive rebounds. The Wildcats had a 24-12 edge in points. Indiana Wesleyan led, 9-3, in second chance points, although that stat was 8-0 the first half in favor of IWU.
Junior Teresa Davis led Point Park with eight points, and she hit an early 3-pointer to give the Pioneers a 7-5 lead after a few minutes. Ja'Nia McPhatter had all seven of her points the first half.
After Davis' early trey, IWU reeled off a 13-3 run for an 18-10 advantage. The spurt included two 3-pointers from Goshert and a 3-point play the old-fashioned way from Smith.
Moments later, Ray hit from the outside, and that was followed by an inside basket by Smith and a breakaway layup by Katrina Blackmon for a 25-12 lead with 4:26 left in the first half.
Point Park battled back to get the deficit down to 10 by halftime, but its cold shooting to start the second half put the game out of reach as IWU scored the first 17 points of the second half.
Point Park had the 10th-ranked defense in the nation, giving up only 55.6 ppg, and Indiana Wesleyan got just above that total on Thursday night. But in the end, the Pioneers couldn't convert on the offensive end.
"Our team, I won't fault their effort, I won't fault their focus," Grene said. "The were really excited to play. They had three great days of practice starting Monday and were sharp in shoot around...Tonight just wasn't our night. The shots weren't falling, and like I said, a lot of that was because of Indiana Wesleyan."