THE TURNING POINT: A 12-2 Ashland run in the last 4:26 of the second quarter to put some distance between itself and ODU.
STAT OF THE GAME: In a gym where the Eagles historically have struggled to shoot well, they hit 52.9 percent from the field.
COLUMBUS – Alumni Hall at Ohio Dominican is a place where Ashland University's women's basketball team historically hasn't shot very well.
History didn't have much of a place there on Thursday (Feb. 2) night, as the No. 1-ranked Eagles improved to 23-0 overall and 15-0 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference following a 90-52 win at the Panthers (15-7, 10-5).
"Our defense is so critical in our offense," said Ashland head coach Robyn Fralick, "and I thought in the second half, we really did a good job of just doing what we need to do defensively. I also thought we did a good job in transition of pushing the ball, converting in transition.
"Those were two key components."
With the win, Ashland needs just one more win or one more ODU loss to clinch its sixth GLIAC South Division championship in the last seven years. The victory also put the Eagles one win away from tying the program record for most consecutive wins to begin a season (24 in 2012-13).
Ashland hit 52.9 percent from the floor and racked up 26 assists on 36 field goals. The Eagles also were 14-of-17 from the free-throw line.
"It feels really good," said junior forward Andi Daugherty. "They came out playing really good defense on us. We just have to keep going. Even in the first half, if the results aren't what we want, we know in the long run, it will pay off."
Four Eagles scored in double figures, led by junior forward Julie Worley off the bench with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor. Senior guard Kelsey Peare scored 15, junior forward/center Laina Snyder added 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals and Daugherty recorded her first double-double of 2016-17 (10 points, 11 boards).
"I had a conversation with the coaches, and they just challenged me a little bit," Daugherty said of the season-high rebound total. "And then my mother...she kind of got on me and wanted to see a difference. So got to make the coaches and momma proud."
Daugherty also moved into 10th place on Ashland's all-time scoring list with 1,262 career points.
Ashland has scored at least 75 points in all 23 games so far in 2016-17.
Defensively, the Eagles kept the Panthers to 30.8-percent shooting from the floor, while forcing 28 turnovers, which turned into 33 AU points. Madi Rittinger led ODU with nine points.
The game didn't start at the breakneck pace the Eagles prefer, and ODU went out to a 5-0 lead. Ashland, however, countered with a turnover-turned-layup from freshman guard Jodi Johnson and a Peare triple to tie the game in less than 20 seconds.
While the offense was trying to find its footing, the Eagle defense was keeping the Panthers at bay in the game's first 10 minutes. There were two tie scores in the early going, then, with 3:23 left in the opening quarter, a Peare layup gave Ashland its first lead at 10-8.
The end of the first stanza saw a 17-14 AU lead thanks to a triple by sophomore guard Maddie Dackin at the buzzer. The Eagle "D" kept Ohio Dominican to 6-of-21 shooting from the floor and forced six turnovers.
Ashland kept ODU off the scoreboard for nearly four minutes going into the second, but the lead at that point was just 19-16. A low-scoring period did nothing to allow either team to separate until late, when more tight defense resulted in a 12-2 Ashland run over the last 4:26 – and a 35-23 lead at the half.
"I thought our kids played tough," Fralick said. "With the way we play, you have to stick with it. You have to stick with it and you've got to continue to play hard."
To start the third quarter, it was a 37-27 Eagle advantage before two Panther turnovers allowed it to become a 43-27 lead. By the media timeout at the 4:39 mark, Ashland had its largest lead of the game to date at 50-31.
Ashland's best offensive quarter of the game to that point (30 points) led to a 65-39 lead going into the fourth, and the Eagles went on to victory from there.
While there is a lot of season remaining, the Eagles are well aware that the 2017 NCAA Division II Elite Eight will be at ODU at the end of March.
"Laina was actually the first one to say it," Daugherty said. "She said the next time we play here, we'll be playing for a championship. We have a lot of games to play before then, but it's definitely something that's in the back of our minds."
UP NEXT: Saturday (Feb. 4) at 1 p.m. at Hillsdale (12-10, 6-9).