Early Run, Strong Defense Carries Women’s Basketball to a Win
ANNAPOLIS, Md. –– Kaila Clark (So., Hughesville, Md.) dictated play in the paint to help the Navy women’s basketball team to a 67-54 victory over North Dakota State Saturday afternoon at Alumni Hall in Annapolis. The win by the Mids (5-0) over the Bison (4-1) came on the opening day of the Navy Classic.
The Mids, who are off to the program’s first 5-0 start to a season in two decades, will face St. Bonaventure Sunday at 3:15 p.m. in the title game of the two-day event. The Bison will face UMBC, which lost to the Bonnies 63-54 earlier Saturday, in Sunday’s 1 p.m. consolation game.
“It was a great team effort today,” said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. “We thought this was a battle of fitness. North Dakota State likes to run even off of when they get scored upon, and that can be hard. We’re not used to that; we don’t practice that way, most teams we play aren’t like that. You saw both teams get winded and being able to make plays through that fatigue was really key tonight.”
NDSU scored the opening points of the game, but 26 seconds later the Mids tied the game and needed just 20 more seconds to take the lead for what would prove to be for the remainder of the afternoon. Navy would score the ensuing eight points –– the last six coming on back-to-back three-point field goals by Hannah Fenske (Sr., Albuquerque, N.M.) to jump out to a 12-2 lead. The Navy advantage would grow to a game-high 21-5 and then the Mids held a 25-10 cushion at the end of the first quarter.
Navy was 11-23 (47.8%) from the field in the first quarter and limited NDSU to 3-17 (17.6%) shooting in the opening 10 minutes.
The Bison would slice a 30-15 deficit down to 30-22 midway through the second quarter, but the Mids would regain a double-digit lead (36-24) before heading into the locker room at half with a 37-29 advantage.
Fenske scored 10 first quarter points and 12 first half points, while Morgan Taylor (So., Evans, Ga.) totaled 10 points and five rebounds in 11 first half minutes.
The teams traded points through the majority of the third quarter, which ended with Navy in front 56-43. The closest NDSU could close to in the final frame was 10 points. Navy made just 2-15 (13.3%) attempts from the floor in the fourth quarter, but sealed the game by sinking 7-10 (70%) foul shots.
Both teams shot within a few tenths of a percentage point of 33 percent for the game, but Navy made four more field goals (24-20) as well as three more triples (9-6) and two more foul shots (10-8) than North Dakota State.
The Bison entered today’s game averaging 85.2 points a game and shooting 46.9 percent from the field. That included a mark of 44.6 percent from three-point land as well as an average of 10.3 triples made a game.
“We have a team goal to hold our opponents below 60 points a game,” said Taylor. Navy dominated the glass, holding a 55-35 lead in overall rebounds which included a 21-8 edge in offensive boards. The Mids would hold a 22-7 advantage in second chance points scored.
Clark set a career high for points with 15 three days ago in Navy’s win over Air Force. Today she set a career best with 17 rebounds –– her previous high was 13 –– and tied the school record she already shared with seven blocked shots. She also contributed eight points, three assists and one steal in her 28 minutes of playing time.
“So impressive,” said Pemper of Clark. “I thought Morgan was great, Kaila was great, Hannah was great. Those three were as good in a game as they have been all season. I said to the team we can’t just watch and admire Kaila; we have to scoop up some of those blocks.”
Taylor ended the game with 17 points to fall two points shy of tying her career high.
“She played great tonight,” said Pemper of Taylor. “I mean, great. This might have been the best game of her career, when you think about how many minutes she played against a quality opponent, the types of things, she didn’t make mistakes; she was just so game-faced, and focused and confident.”
NDSU was led in scoring by 11 points from both Taylor Thunstedt and Reilly Jacobson.