Special to the Herald
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON – The Ashford University women’s basketball team concluded play at the 2013 Ashford Classic on Saturday, losing to a top-25 team for the second day in a row.
No. 12 Briar Cliff beat the Saints 74-63 despite a game-high 21 points from junior Quinn Rear.
“Physically, we played just as hard as we did last night,” AU coach Kelly Kruger said. “But I thought we were smarter today, and we took a step in the right direction as far as playing as a unit. We also shot the ball a lot better, and we looked much more comfortable in the system.”
After the Chargers took a 19-12 lead in the opening half, Ashford cut the lead to one with 1:25 to go, thanks to a pair of free throws by junior Madison Wagner. But the Saints couldn’t pull in front and headed to the locker room trailing, 34-30.
The Saints stayed within striking distance throughout the second half, but a 7-2 run by the Chargers stretched the lead to seven with 7:25 to play. Ashford battled back, cutting the lead to 58-56, thanks to a long triple from Rear with less than six minutes to play.
But the Saints were unable to get any closer, as the Chargers (2-0) went 8-for-10 from the free-throw line to close the game.
Wagner and sophomore Elizabeth Nardi each finished with 10 points for the Saints, while freshman Sarah Vozel added seven points and a team-leading seven rebounds.
Mattie Murren led the Chargers with 18 points, while Slone Masters and Summer Gordon added 17 and 14, respectively.
The Saints (0-2) held a 43-39 advantage in rebounds while holding a Chargers team that scored 121 points the day before to only 37.9 percent (22-for-58) shooting.
At the end of the weekend, Kruger noticed improvements in the Saints’ play on the floor, despite facing the daunting task of facing a pair of top-15 teams.
“We had two nights of consistent physical effort, and we made strides shooting the ball and on the defensive end,” Kruger said. “But you can’t make excuses for the schedule. We have to go out and play the games. We know that we have to hang our hats on the improvements we made through the weekend and get ready for the next one.”
The Saints will head out on the road for the first time Wednesday, traveling to Milwaukee for a 5:30 p.m. meeting with Cardinal Stritch, ranked No. 15 in the preseason NAIA Division I top-25 poll.