Red Raiders Stay Unbeaten In First Round; Outlast ONU

Anna Kiel and Kassidy De Jong both scored 18 points in leading No.1 seed and fourth-ranked Northwestern to a 93-80 win in the first round of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship played Thursday afternoon at the Tyson Events Center.

Northwestern stayed perfect in first round games at the championship, improving to 16-0 all-time. The Red Raiders advance with a 27-4 record where they will play a second round game on Friday night at 7pm. ONU ends the season at 21-12.

Kiel used her length to go 9-for-11 from the field and pulled down eight rebounds before fouling out in the final minutes. De Jong knocked down a trio of three-pointers and matched Kiel with 18 points to go with 10 rebounds for her 11th double-double of the season. Not to be outdone, Darbi Gustafson scored 14 points and grabbed 11 boards, her 11th double-double of the season. Sammy Blum added 15 points, hitting three from beyond the arc, and Taylor VanderVelde provided more scoring off the bench, putting in 11.

Northwestern had to overcome a slow start, falling behind 13-5 in the opening four minutes after Kayla Ross scored on a floater in the lane. A basket by Gustafson began a 15-2 run to close the quarter as the Red Raiders grabbed the lead, 20-15, at the end of the first 10 minutes.

VanderVelde hit a jumper to put Northwestern in front eight (26-18) only to have the Lions outscore the Red Raiders 13-4 during a four-minute span to get the lead back. With the game being played at a frantic, up-and-down the court pace, the teams traded baskets during the final minutes and resulted in a 43-42 Northwestern lead at halftime.

Northwestern slowly extended its lead to seven (68-61) near the end of the third quarter before ONU scored the final basket to make the score 68-63 in the Red Raiders favor. Yaw’s squad controlled the final period, pushing their advantage to as much as 16 on three different occasions with under three minutes to go.

All-American Jess Learned led all players with 32 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Ross added 18 points and Sammy Stejskal scored 13 points coming off the ONU bench. The Lions forced NWC into 14 turnovers, most of which were in the first half.

Blum dished out eight assists and Jada Cunningham added five assists.