There was a new set of black uniforms for Ashland University's women's basketball team on Thursday (Jan. 3) night, as well as a new starting lineup.
And after an offensive struggle in the first half, there was an on-fire Eagles team in the second half en route to an 80-58 win at Kates Gymnasium vs. Michigan Tech.
As No. 8-ranked Ashland (12-1 overall, 4-1 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) won its 100th all-time game as a nationally-ranked team at home, and its program-record 46th consecutive straight game at The Kates, it went 22-for-29 (75.9 percent) from the field, 3-of-6 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line in the third and fourth quarters combined.
"The girls knew what they needed to do," said Ashland head coach Kari Pickens. "What I felt we did a better job of was ball movement in the half-court, and we also tried to play more aggressive defensively in the second half. It really allows us to push the ball and get easy buckets in transition."
THE TOP TEN
1. Ashland had four double-digit scorers in the victory, and all four had efficient offensive outputs. Junior forward Sara Loomis scored all 23 of her points in the final three quarters, ending 10-of-15 from the field to go with nine rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals.
"The first half, it was a little stagnant. I know myself, I didn't play too hot in the first half," Loomis said. "My coaches and teammates had confidence in me, so I knew it could only go up from there."
2. Junior guard/forward Jodi Johnson added 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, while posting six rebounds, three assists and seven steals. Senior guard Maddie Dackin needed just five shots to finish with 14 points, and sophomore forward Karlee Pireu, in her second collegiate starting assignment, had 10 points on 5-of-7 from the field.
"Every game flows a little different," Dackin said. "We just figured it out."
3. The Eagles flirted with the program record for field-goal percentage in a game during the fourth quarter, and finished the night at 62.7 percent from the floor, 50.0 percent from downtown and 76.9 percent from the charity stripe.
4. Ashland's defense forced 20 turnovers, resulting in 22 AU points. Tech (7-6, 3-2) shot 42.9 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.
5. Perhaps the most impressive team statistic for the Eagles on Thursday, even more than the shooting percentage, was their 35-19 rebounding advantage.
"A lot of that has to do with how fast our team plays," Pickens said. "Defensively, give credit to our girls. We did a great job of getting a great shot on basket. It's hard to get rebounds when the shot goes in."
6. The second-highest scoring team in NCAA Division II at 93.3 points per game entering Thursday night, Ashland had trouble getting going offensively. In the first quarter, the Eagles made 4-of-12 shots from the field, and turned the ball over seven times.
7. By halftime, the offensive struggles had manifested themselves to the tune of 16 turnovers in the game's first 20 minutes. Ashland did make six of 10 second-quarter shots, however, and thanks to two free throws from Dackin and a layup from Loomis, the Eagles took a 29-27 lead into the locker room.
8. The difference-maker for AU in the first half was defense. The Huskies turned the ball over 13 times, resulting in 15 Eagle points.
9. Leading 50-43 late in the third quarter, Ashland ran off eight straight points to take a 15-point advantage into the final period. The Eagles then scored the first seven points of the final stanza to put the game on ice.
10. For Tech, Ellie Mackay and Hannah Hobson each came off the bench for 13 points, while Cassidy Trotter chipped in with 10 points, nine assists and three steals.
Another conference contest at Kates Gymnasium on Saturday (Jan. 5) at 1 p.m. vs. GLIAC North Division-leading Northern Michigan (10-3, 5-0).