MOUNT PLEASANT – Iowa Wesleyan College got off to a fast start and then fought off several comebacks by St. Ambrose University for an 82-75 win over the Queen Bees Wednesday night at Ruble Arena.
The Tigers got double-doubles from Heather Larson (Jr.-Canton, Ill.), Brittany Okland (Sr.-Kelley, Iowa) and Rachel Mitchell (Sr.-Des Moines, Iowa) and also received 21 points from Ali DeVries (Jr.-Bellevue, Iowa), who went over 1,000 points in her Wesleyan career. IWC needed all of those performances to win its sixth in a row and stay in first place in the MCC at 11-1 in conference play (16-8 overall).
The Tigers were smoking hot at the start of the game, hitting seven three-pointers in the game’s first nine minutes in building an early 24-9 lead. Larson, DeVries and Megan Couch (Jr.-Mooresville, Ind.) all hit triples in the team’s promising start. IWC was unable to sustain the momentum, though, and the Queen Bees responded with a 17-1 run of their own over a four minute span to take the lead back at 26-25.
Wesleyan came back strong, starting with 12 straight points late in the half, with Mitchell’s steal and lay-up making it 39-28. The lead remained at 11 as the Tigers took a 43-32 lead into halftime, and early in the second half IWC looked ready to blow the visitors out in a similar way to many of the team’s wins during its current 20-game home court winning streak. The Tigers took control and opened the lead to 20 points, going ahead 61-41 after Okland converted a three-point play with 13:32 left in the game.
St. Ambrose did not go away, though, and made the Tigers sweat out the game’s last eight minutes. The Bees scored nine straight points to get within five at 69-64 with 5:57 left, and eventually cut the lead to four points on two occasions, the last time at 75-71 with 3:15 remaining. Larson hit a jumper off an inbounds play, though, and then threw a three-point dagger to make it 80-71 with 2:13 left and put IWC in control.
Larson finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, while Okland had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Both were a big part of the Tigers’ dominance inside that resulted in a 44-29 rebounding advantage, including a 26-14 edge on the boards in the second half. Mitchell also posted 16 points and had a career high 13 assists as well as seven rebounds.
DeVries came into the game needing 16 points to reach 1,000 for her career and hit that mark early in the second half, becoming just the 11th player in the modern era of IWC women’s basketball (since 1975) to break the 1,000-point barrier.
The Tigers ended up making 10 of 19 three-point attempts for the game (52.6%) and converted 27 of 52 field goal tries overall (51.9%). IWC also held SAU (15-10 overall, 7-5 in MCC) to 41.8% shooting (28-for-67) and held MCC-leading scorer Ali Dolphin to 9 of 24 shooting. Dolphin did score 24 points and added eight assists and five steals.
The Tigers’ defense and good shooting helped make up for a big difference in turnovers. Wesleyan committed 23 turnovers to just 10 for the Bees. IWC completed a season sweep of St. Ambrose that also included a 68-55 win on Jan. 7 at Davenport. Iowa Wesleyan has also now won 20 straight games at home, dating back to the 2006-07 season.
The Tigers continue a tough late-season stretch of games with a trip to Cedar Rapids on Saturday for a first place showdown against Mount Mercy College. IWC leads the Mustangs by one game in the MCC standings and posted a 68-61 win over MMC on Jan. 10 in Mount Pleasant. Game time will be 1 p.m. Wesleyan will be back at home again next Wednesday to face Grand View University at 5:30 p.m. at Ruble Arena.
For more information regarding the IWC basketball programs or any of the Tiger athletic teams, contact sports information director Adam Glatczak (319-385-6306 phone; 319-385-6384 FAX; firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail) or log on to IWC's athletics web site at www.iwc.edu/athletics.