The Ashford University women's basketball team recorded their biggest win of the young 2011-12 season, knocking off 11th-ranked St. Ambrose University, 66-63 on Saturday (Dec. 3).
Three Saints (3-6, 1-1 MCC) scored in double-figures, led by freshman guard Quinn Rear's 15 points, to knock off Queen Bees (3-3, 0-1 MCC) for the program's first MCC win of the season. It was also the team's first conference road win since Feb. 29, 2011 when they defeated Waldorf College, 50-49.
"We came out and put together two halves tonight," Saints Head Coach Amy Eagan said. "That was something we've been trying to get our team to do all year, and tonight everything fell into place. This is a big win for our girls to get their confidence up heading forward."
"It feels great," Rear said. "We were coming off a game that we could have won but didn't, so this one feels really good to get against a very good team."
The Saints got ahead of the Queen Bees in the early going, taking their first lead of the game after junior Gaby Ayon connected on one of two free throws at the 18:17 mark to make it 3-2.
The two teams would exchange leads eight times over the next seven minutes of the game until freshman Madison Wagner put the Saints on top with a three-point bucket to give the Saints a 13-11 lead with 11:17 to go in the first half.
Ashford would not trail again for quite some time.
With the score tied at 17, Ashford ripped off a 7-0 run, highlighted by five points from junior guard Patricia Ramos. Senior Kathryn Voss chipped in with the other bucket during the run to push the Ashford lead to 24-17. That lead would be their largest lead of the first half.
The Queen Bees would pull the game back to within a point after a three by Mollie Yeargle with 4:12 remaining in the first half to make it a 25-24 game. But the Saints would not surrender the lead, as junior Deana Bledsoe and Ayon connected from the paint on consecutive possessions to stretch the lead back to five at 29-24.
St. Ambrose would cut the lead back to one, but the Saints would score the last five points of the first half on Rear's second three-pointer of the game and jumper in the lane, to close the half with a 34-28 lead.
Ashford would keep their foot on the gas out of the half, outscoring the Queen Bees, 7-2 to open up the second half, extending their lead to 41-30 with 17:38 to go in the game. That was their largest lead of the game.
St. Ambrose would pull out a 6-0 run to bring the game back to within four, but Ashford had answer for that run, getting back-to-back buckets from Rear and Bledsoe to push the lead to 45-37 with 12:05 left to play.
The Queen Bees would make their push to get back in the game, getting back to within one after a 7-0 run, capped off by a jumper by Annie Smith.
St. Ambrose evened up the game for the first time since the 8:10 mark of the first half after Samantha Saladino connected on a jumper to tie the game at 46 with 7:59 to go.
The comeback by the Queen Bees wouldn't discourage the Saints, as Madison Wagner buried a three on the next possession to put Ashford back on top.
The Saints would hold onto the lead until the final minute of the game, when St. Ambrose went back on top after Smith hit another jumper with 45 seconds to go to put her team in front 60-59.
After that, the Saints would get their biggest bucket of the season from Rear, who hit a deep three from the top of the key to put Ashford on top, 62-60, with 32 seconds to go.
"When she let it go, I knew it was in," Eagan said. "She has the green light to shoot, and she showed great poise knocking down that shot."
"It felt good when I let it go," Rear added. "Coach kept telling me to have a short memory since I missed a few, and her confidence in me gave me confidence in myself to hit that shot."
The Queen Bees had a chance to even the game at the line late, but Smith couldn't connect on a one-and-one with 16 seconds to go. Ashford closed out the game making all four of their free throws to seal their third win of the season.
Coming off a tough loss to Waldorf earlier this week, the Saints put in the hard work to make sure there was no letdown late in this one.
"We might have felt a little too good after the Roosevelt game," Eagan said. "We had two really good days of practice and they kept it together late. We still have to look to get better every day, but now they know how to win in a big conference game and that's big for our confidence going forward."
Wagner closed out the game with 14 points, including three big shots from behind the arc. Ramos finished with 12 points, rounding out the Saints players in double-figures.
Smith led the Queen Bees with a 17-point, 18-rebound effort. She was joined in double-figures by Yeargle and Michelle Charvat, who had 12 and 10 points, respectively.
St. Ambrose held a slight advantage over the Saints on the glass, out-rebounding Ashford, 45-41. Ashford did an outstanding job taking care of the basketball, winning the turnover battle, 15-14.
The Saints will look to win consecutive MCC games for the first time under Eagan, when they conclude a three-game road trip at AIB next Saturday (Dec. 10). Tip-off for that contest begins at 1:00 p.m.