SIOUX CITY, Iowa—In the NAIA women's basketball national tournament, the third-seeded Carroll College Women fell to the second-seeded Morningside Mustangs 71-67 on Thursday afternoon.
In a game that featured 113 combined shots, there's one stat line that stuck out to Carroll College head coach Rachelle Sayers once the final horn blew.
"You look at the stats, we shot it better, we turned it over less, we out-rebounded them. It came down to, really free throws in the end," said Sayers.
The Mustangs went had 20 free-throw attempts and made 17 of them, including two key ones that came on shooting fouls late in the game that would give Morningside the lead late in the contest. The Fighting Saints stumbled out of the gates early in the contest falling behind 15-6, before getting their footing midway through and battling with the Mustangs to a 20-20 first-half tally.
The Fighting Saints and the Mustangs continued to shift the momentum back and forth through the second before settling at 38-38 to end the first half.
In the first half, the Fighting Saints spread the ball effectively tallying 11 assists, six of which credited to Kamden Hilborn, while Dani Wagner and Maddie Geritz put up double-digit points.
To open the second half, the Fighting Saints looked like a completely different team compared to their first half start, jumping out to a 12-2 run to put the Carroll ahead 50-40 midway through the third.
“Definitely a game of runs,” said Sayers. “They made a big run early, we battled back. We made a big run in the third, they battled back.”
And battle back did the Mustangs.
Morningside was able to quash the Fighting Saints’ 10-point lead, before eventually taking the lead to end the third quarter at 55-54.
In the fourth quarter, it was a race to the finish as both Carroll and Morningside traded shots until the Mustangs were able to make the most of their opportunities and the free-throw line to effectively seal the game and advance to the NAIA Women’s National Tournament’s final eight teams.
Pickens led the game with 24 points, six rebounds and three blocks, while Dani Wagner added 17 points and Kamden Hilborn logged 13 assists.
With the loss, the Fighting Saints fall to 27-8 on the season and finish ranked 11th in the NAIA.
The Fighting Saints will also graduate four players in Dani Wagner, Christine Denny, Jaidyn Lyman, and Emma Madsen.
“I'm super proud of this team, and the character of this team and the culture that they have exhibited day in and day out and what they stand for as people number one. You know, I wish I could have done more to help them get Saturday because they deserve that. They have been, from day one, bought in and committed to this program to me; to the school,” said Sayers. “These guys have battled through the hard days to get to this point, and I couldn't be more thankful for them and more proud of them.”