#17 NNU women take down UAA

#17 NNU women take down UAA »Play Video
Northwest Nazarene University women stay undefeated at home with an 86-80 victory over Alaska Anchorage on Thursday night in Nampa, Idaho.
NAMPA, Idaho – Nothing slowed down the Crusaders on Thursday night. Not two weeks off. Not two players down. And not league front-runner Alaska Anchorage as the 17th-ranked Northwest Nazarene women dispatched the Seawolves, 86-80, in Great Northwest Athletic Conference action at the Johnson Sports Center.

“Every win is a great win and we’re going to enjoy this one tonight, but tomorrow it’s behind us and we’re looking to work on getting the next one against Alaska Fairbanks on Saturday,” said NNU coach Ryan Bragdon, whose team last played on Dec. 19 before taking two weeks off for the Christmas break.

Plus, the Crusaders (9-2 overall, 2-1 GNAC) played without senior forward Veronika Skokankova and lost senior guard and leading rebound Kylee Schierman five minutes into the action to an injury. Yet it didn’t matter.

“Character,” Bragdon said, as his team built a 17-point lead in the first half then weathered a comeback effort by UAA in the second half. “We have a lot of character in the locker room.

“We went through a lot of adversity last week and today with people being sick, people being out, Kylee going down 5 minutes into the game, and it ended up affecting nothing because of the type of people we have on the roster.”

Kayla Schumann got NNU going early, hitting a quartet of first-half 3-pointers as the Crusaders grabbed an 11-0 lead they stretched to 34-17 on a Chelsie Luke bucket with 4:26 left in the opening half.
“Kayla coming out and hitting those 3s really got us into a groove offensively,” Bragdon said, adding, “and those 3s were a result of the patience we had on offense.”

The Seawolves (9-2, 2-1) patiently chipped away, though, closing to 40-30 down at halftime and eventually grabbing a brief 55-54 lead on a Jenna Buchanan bucket with 10:02 to play.

But NNU’s character shone through as Taylor Simmons tossed in two free throws, putting the Crusaders back on top, and though UAA managed to tie the score three more times, NNU never let the Seawolves take another lead.

On top 72-71 late, the Crusaders then iced the win with a 12-3 run that saw Megan Hingston hit back-to-back buckets – part of her 26th career double-double as she finished with game highs of 25 points and 15 rebounds – and Simmons capped the charge with a hoop-and-the-harm 3-point play followed by two free throws for a commanding 84-74 lead with 46 seconds left.

Simmons finished with a career high 24 points in the win, 13 of those coming on 13-of-13 free-throw shooting by the sophomore from Middleton High School.

“I like it for her sake because she’s starting to see she is an offensive player, too,” Bragdon said of Simmons, who has averaged 21 points per game her last three contests. “She’s seeing she can play more than defense.

“She’s doing a great job leading the team, setting the tone for us offensively so we can attack the basket and get to the free-throw line.”
And NNU got to the free-throw line a ton Thursday night, going 38-of-46 (82.6 percent) at the charity stripe in the win.

The 38 free throws made broke the GNAC record of 37 made free throws by a single team in a game, set by Western Washington in 2004 and Humboldt State in 2005.

Schumann finished with 12 points and five steals in the win and Luke added 10 points and seven rebounds for NNU, which next hosts Alaska Fairbanks on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. in a Crusader doubleheader. The NNU men host Central Washington at 7:30 that evening.

Kylie Burns led the Seawolves with 20 points and nine rebounds.