A 20-8 run over the final 5:17 lifted 14th-ranked Ohio Northern past Denison in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament on Friday night at the DeVos Fieldhouse on the campus of Hope College.
After a back-and-forth opening 14 minutes that saw seven lead changes, the Polar Bears broke a 17-17 tie when Courtney Cramer knocked down a jumper with just under six minutes to play in the half. The Big Red responded over the final four minutes with a 7-0 run that sent them into the locker room with a 24-19 lead. Senior Taylor Lindquist started the run with a triple off an assist from Gaby Mehringer. With 2:42 on the clock, senior Kellie Arter knocked down another 3-pointer and drew a foul on Carly Thomas that set up a four-point play.
Ohio Northern opened the second half with a 6-0 surge that gave them a one-point edge. The Polar Bears held that lead for just 1:32 before a pair of Erica Holmes free throws sparked a 7-0 run that resulted in a 31-25 DU advantage. Lindquist provided a layup during the run, while Jordan Holmes capped if off with an old-fashioned three-point play.
After seeing their lead get whittled down to two points, Denison engineered another 6-0 burst which resulted in the Big Red's largest lead of the contest at 39-31. After surrendering back-to-back buckets to the Polar Bears, junior Emily Krumpe knocked down a jumper inside the final 10 seconds to give Denison a six-point lead after three-quarters.
Up by 43-41 with just over six minutes left in regulation, Mehringer converted from short range to push the Big Red lead to four. Three possessions later, ONU's Brooke Espenschied drained a triple with 5:17 on the clock. That 3-pointer sparked 16-4 run that turned a four-point Polar Bear deficit into an eight-point Ohio Northern advantage with less than a minute and a half to play. The Polar Bears were able to secure the win with a 5-for-8 showing at the foul line over the final 44 seconds of the game.
Holmes posted her 24th double-double of the season with 11 points and 16 rebounds to go along with eight blocks in 37 minutes. Krumpe paced the Big Red offense with 12 points on 6-of-11 from the field. The junior also grabbed six rebounds. Lindquist finished with nine points, while Mehringer had eight tallies.
Holmes will enter her senior season with 1,099 points, 1,283 rebounds and 482 blocks, which ranks her 10th across all three division of the NCAA. She also re-set her own single-season school records for field-goal percentage (68 percent), rebounds (499), rebounding average (17.8) and blocks (173). Her single-season field-goal percentage, rebounds and blocks are also North Coast Athletic Conference records.
Denison closes out the season with a 23-5 record, while Ohio Northern improves to 23-4 on the year. The Polar Bears will take on the winner of the Hope-Carnegie Mellon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Holland, Mich.