CLINTON – After playing one of the toughest schedules in the country, the Ashford University women’s basketball team closed the 2013-14 season on a positive note Wednesday night.
Led by 14 points from junior Madison Wagner and a swarming defensive effort, the Saints downed the Eagles of AIB College of Business, 52-46, to finish the regular season with a 10-20 record.
Junior Quinn Rear added 11 points and freshman Sarah Vozel grabbed 11 rebounds for the Saints, whose grinding style at both ends of the floor wore down their opponents as the night went on.
“We were very persistent tonight with the way we played,” Head Coach Kelly Kruger said. “We took it one possession at a time at both ends of the floor and it took a toll on them. They took some shots we wanted them to take and we made plays down at the offensive end late in the game by getting to the line and making our free throws. That was the biggest difference in the game.”
The first half featured seven ties and five lead changes as the two squads remained within one possession of each other for most of the half. AIB would take a 26-24 lead into the break thanks to a 7-2 run to close the half.
Trailing 31-30 with 13:07 to go in the game, the Saints would take the lead for good thanks to a pair of consecutive three-point possessions. Wagner put Ashford on top with her only triple of the night and on their next trip down the floor, Jessica Mlachnik converted a three-point play to give AU its largest lead of the game at that point.
The Eagles would battle back to tie the game at 42, but smothering defense and a 6-0 run gave the Saints the breathing room they would need to seal the game at the line.
Morgan Hansen finished with a game-high 25 points for the Eagles, who fell to 7-19 on the year.
Ashford knocked down 35.6% (16-for-45) of their field goals and knock down 80% (16-for-20) of their free throws while holding their guests to 35.4% (17-for-48) from the floor. It might not have been the flashiest way to end the year, but the AU bench boss with pleased with the way his team put a stamp on the regular season.
“We’re happy with the way we closed the year,” Kruger added. “Any time you get a win, you take it no matter how you get it. We battled a tough schedule all season and we’ve gotten better.
“When you play half of your schedule against teams that are either ranked or getting votes, sometimes your record doesn’t reflect how we’ve played. Our kids have approached it the right way and fought through it all year,” Kruger said.
Next up for the Saints is the 2014 Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.) Tournament, held in Clinton on Feb. 28-Mar. 1. The Saints’ opponent and game start time will be released at a later date.