The Baker Orange

Women cruise by Evangel 89-53

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

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The Baker women showed why they’re one of the best defensive teams in the Heart of America Athletic Conference in a 89-53 win over the Evangel Crusaders on Wednesday night in the Collins Center. The BU defense shut down every aspect of the Crusaders’ offensive game from the opening tip as the Wildcats cruised to their seventh win in eight games in conference play.

Everything went right for the Wildcats from the very beginning. In the opening minutes Baker and Evangel were tied 2-2 after a pair of free throws by the Crusaders’ best player, junior Allison Swanson. But from that moment on the game would never be close again.

The Wildcats rattled off a 20-0 run that nearly stretched into the second quarter. Evangel started 0-10 from the field before finally hitting its first basket in the final three seconds of the first quarter. Baker dominated its way to a 22-6 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

The Wildcats went into the game as the No. 1 team in the NAIA in 3-point field goal percentage at 40 percent. Baker’s defense was so sharp in the opening minutes that the Wildcats didn’t even attempt a trifecta until the 7:40 mark in the second quarter. Junior Kelsey Larson, the nation’s top-rated 3-point shooter, hit the team’s only three-pointer in the first half with 6:50 to go in the second quarter.

Things were never any easier for Evangel in the second quarter, either. The Crusaders didn’t hit double digits in points until the 3:37 mark in the second quarter. Evangel ended the first half 3-21 from the field and 0-1 from downtown. Baker was efficient in the offense at 14-31 from the field and 9-11 from the charity stripe. At the break Baker led 38-15.

The Wildcats were able to clear the bench for the majority of the second half and keep the starters healthy and off the floor. Baker was without junior Kenzie Cook, who didn’t play because of a sore back, but beyond her nearly everyone got into the game.

Cook’s injury could’ve posed as a problem if Baker’s lead had not been so gaping, but the big lead allowed for Baker to play in foul trouble. Baker’s posts senior Macy Wallisch and sophomore Courtney Hoag both were in foul jeopardy throughout the game and Hoag fouled out in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats dominated throughout the second half and forced nine Evangel turnovers. At one point the Crusaders cut the deficit to 20 points, but it was never less than that. Baker even led by as many as 39 points after sharp shooting from the perimeter.

Wallisch has shined in back-to-back home games. Coming off of a triple-double against Avila, which earned her Heart Player of the Week, Wallisch led Baker with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Wallisch now has double digit rebounds in her last three games.

Senior Ericka Simpson and junior Kelsey Larson both scored 12 points against Evangel after leading the Wildcats in scoring in a 69-60 win at Missouri Valley College on Saturday. Larson has made 10 of her last 13 trifectas, after hitting 2-3 on Wednesday.

Hoag and freshman Brooke McMillin both scored seven points off the bench. Sophomore Sydnie Hanson scrapped for six points, four rebounds and every loose ball on the floor.

The Wildcats are still in the hunt for a Heart title but will need some help from the teams at the top. Baker sits at 17-5 overall and 11-4 in the league and is tied for third with Benedictine. Baker is still behind first place Central Methodist and second place MNU.

The Wildcats will now play two more home games in a row. They welcome in Graceland at 2 p.m. Saturday and will face off with the conference’s top team, Central Methodist, on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

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