Sometimes a light heart can make up for heavy legs.
That seemed to be the case midway through the first half of Saturday's (Jan. 14) GLIAC women's basketball game when the weight of the world seemed to be on the shoulders of the Ohio Dominican Panthers.
The Ashland University Eagles, playing their third game this week, scored the game's first 16 points and didn't permit an ODU point until Meredith Fox made a layup with 9:52 to play in the first half. AU led, 23-4 with 7:32 left in the half and 30-8 with 4:38 to go before halftime. At the break, the Eagles led, 38-19.
The final was 72-50, Ashland. This was AU's 14th consecutive win and puts the Eagles at 14-1, 8-0 in GLIAC play. On Tuesday at Cedarville, AU scored the game's first 13 points on the way to an 89-69 victory. On Thursday, the 15th-ranked Eagles trailed most of the game but rallied for a 77-75 win at Tiffin.
That's a full week of basketball and it ends with very few worries for this AU team.
"Honestly, for me personally, it's a privilege to be part of this team," said sophomore guard-forward Ashley Dorner (Bellville, Ohio/Clear Fork), who constructed her third double-double of the season with team highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds. "It (winning streak) makes me excited. We're excited to keep it up. We have so much potential."
Dorner made 7-of-10 field goal tries for an Ashland team that shot 50.8 percent (30-of-59) on the afternoon. But the story of this game was defense. In the first half, the Panthers (5-10/1-8) shot 29.6 percent. For the game they shot 34.5 percent (19-of-55). The Eagles terrorized ODU on the glass, outrebounding the visitors, 45-22. Ashland led, 18-2 in second chance points and 42-26 in points in the paint.
"I thought we came out ready to play," offered senior guard Jena Stutzman (Berlin, Ohio/Kent State). "We had to play better team defense, especially after the Tiffin game."
The Eagles have not spent a lot of time playing from behind this season. This would have been the perfect opportunity for the Eagles to come out and look sluggish, this being their third game in five days. Yet just the opposite was true.
"Our coaches do a great job with that situation," said Dorner. "Our trainer keeps everyone in line. We had a walk-through yesterday. Yesterday we weren't on the floor a lot."
The Eagles had no issues with energy against ODU. In the early stages of the game, they threw a blanket on the floor. AU forced eight first-half turnovers and contested nearly every shot. The Panthers ended the game with only six offensive rebounds.
"We have great help-side defense," said Stutzman. "We have great communication and we play well as a team. It's really fun."
Junior forward-guard Kari Daugherty (Fresno, Ohio/Dayton), who normally carries the scoring load for the Eagles, finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists. She logged just 26 minutes, 11 in the second half. Junior guard Lindsay Tenyak (Wadsworth, Ohio) had 12 points. Sophomore point guard Alyssa Miller (Zanesville, Ohio/Tri-Valley) didn't score a point, but put her stamp on the game in just about every other way with six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Junior forward-center Beth Mantkowski (Fairlawn, Ohio/Copley) came off the bench to deliver her second consecutive solid game with eight points, five rebounds and two assists in 14 minutes.
ODU was led by Fox's 12 points. Guard Katy Rasor added 11 points.
AU head coach Sue Ramsey had an opportunity to give her bench extensive minutes in the second half. Even with that mix-and-match strategy the Eagles didn't lose their focus, intensity or ability to control the game.
"At the start of the game Coach says we have 40 minutes of game time," Dorner said. "We come in at halftime and Coach reminds us that it's 0-0 and it's a brand new game. We don't take breaks at all."
That's especially true at Kates Gymnasium where the Eagles are 8-0 this season and 18-2 since the start of last season.
That certainly bodes well for AU in this coming week. On Thursday (Jan. 19, 5:30 p.m.), the Eagles will host Saginaw Valley State. That will be followed by another home game, with Lake Superior State, on Saturday (Jan. 21, 1 p.m.).