Duhawks fall short in rival game against UD Spartans

WBBAfter completing a season sweep of the Coe College Kohawks in a 72-57 victory on Feb. 3, the Loras women’s basketball team returned home to take on their rival, the University of Dubuque Spartans. Earlier this season, the women took down the Spartans in overtime on the road. They looked to once again sweep a conference opponent and maintain their place near the top of the Iowa Conference standings.

Early on, the contest was back and forth with neither team being able to open up much of a lead. The Spartans held a slim lead for most of the first half, thanks to the play of junior Emily Brinker. After exploding for 41 points in the first matchup between these schools, the junior tallied 26 points and six rebounds on Saturday afternoon. Her 3-pointer right before halftime left the Spartans with a 35-28 advantage at the break.

In the second half, Loras continued to fight to grab the lead, but the Spartans would not give up that easy. Whenever the Duhawks would get within striking distance, UD would respond to maintain their lead. The poor shooting of the Duhawks did not help their cause, as they finished shooting 39 percent from the field and only 11 percent from behind the arc. This inability to get the ball in the basket hindered the offense throughout and left the Duhawks trailing as the fourth quarter loomed.

In the final period, juniors Terese McMahon and Lori Obendorf combined to give the Duhawks their first lead since early in the game with a 6-0 run, good enough for a 52-47 advantage. McMahon was able to stretch the lead out to eight after a layup, putting the Duhawks within reach of their eighth Iowa Conference win. However, the Duhawk offense fell into a rut over the final five minutes of the contest and were unable to add to their lead. This inability to score allowed the Spartans to erase the deficit and take the lead with only 35 seconds left to play. With only one chance left to even the score, Coach Justin Heinzen put the ball into the hands of junior guard Kat Cabrera. Cabrera took the ball hard to the basket and earned a trip to the line after taking contact. The Arizona native calmly stepped up and knocked down both free throws to even the score, sending this contest into overtime.  In the extra session, the Spartans were able to jump out to a lead with six unanswered points following a McMahon layup. Trailing by four with under two minutes remaining, the Duhawks attempted to get back into the game via the charity stripe. Unfortunately, the women were only able to connect on one out of four attempts, adding to their lowly .680 free throw percentage for the game. Still behind with time winding down, the Duhawks resorted to sending the Spartans to the free throw line to preserve the clock. This would end up being their downfall, as UD buried seven out of eight free throws to put the game out of reach. They held on for a 71-64 overtime victory, dropping the Duhawks to 14-7 overall and 7-3 in the IIAC. Despite the loss, McMahon was able to set a new career high in points with 26. The Duhawks also saw strong performances from Obendorf who added 16 points, and Cabrera with 12.

With only four games remaining on their regular season schedule, the Duhawks are tied for second place, behind Luther.

“There aren’t many conferences in the country better than ours,” Heinzen said. “Our message has always been about development of consistent habits. When games are tight and situations tense, habits and tendencies take over, so we’re relying on our instincts and everything we’ve done the first 70 or so practices.”

With only one game separating the two teams, these next four conference matchups will be huge for the Duhawks as they determine the seeding for the upcoming conference tournament. The women have struggled away from home, posting a 5-5 record away from the AWC, and they will have back-to-back road games starting this Wednesday. If the Duhawks can pull out those two contests, they will be sitting pretty as they head back to Dubuque to finish their regular season slate.

“We’ll play wherever we need to and whoever we need to once tournament picture shapes up,” Heinzen said. “It’d be outstanding to have a home game in there though. I think positioning ourselves at the top of the league would be a tremendous gift to give to three seniors that have given a lot more to us.”

On Wednesday, the Duhawks began their final stretch run in Waverly against the Wartburg Knights. The team will head to Storm Lake, Iowa on Saturday to face Buena Vista. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.

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