SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The magic number was four for Ashland University's women's basketball team on Monday (March 19) night.
In their 2018 NCAA Division II Elite Eight quarterfinal at the Sanford Pentagon on Monday, the top-ranked Eagles improved to 35-0 following an 91-73 win over unranked Montana State Billings (25-12). This is Ashland's fourth time reaching the D-II Final Four, all since 2012.
"Great game. A lot of credit to Montana State," said Ashland head coach Robyn Fralick, now 103-2 (.981) in her career. "A really tough team. I'm proud of our team's fight. We would go on a run, and they would go on a run.
"I thought we showed really good poise and toughness down the stretch. The way we play, you have to stick with it. And I thought we did that well."
The Eagles won their 72nd consecutive game, extending the fifth-longest winning streak in NCAA basketball history, regardless of level or gender. Ashland also not only broke its own D-II single-season record for points scored, it also passed Connecticut for the most points scored in a campaign in NCAA women's basketball history, regardless of level, with 3,500.
Ashland, winner of the 2013 and 2017 D-II national championship, improves to 25-5 (.833) all-time in the postseason – the best winning percentage of any D-II team with at least 25 games. The Eagles also are 9-1 all-time at the Elite Eight, including 4-0 in quarterfinal contests.
1. Senior forwards Laina Snyder and Andi Daugherty paced the Eagle offensive attack. Snyder finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while Daugherty posted 20 points, six boards and four assists.
2. All five AU starters scored in double figures. Sophomore guard Renee Stimpert scored 14 points, had eight rebounds and added six assists; sophomore guard Jodi Johnson chipped in with 13 points and nine boards; and junior guard Maddie Dackin added 10 points. Johnson also recorded eight steals, three more than her previous AU NCAA Tournament single-game record.
3. The Eagles forced 26 Yellowjacket turnovers, and scored 33 points off of them. Ashland turned Billings over twice as much as its season average entering the Elite Eight.
4. The early part of the game was a feeling-out process – and perhaps a process of each team getting its bearings back after having not played for a week. There were six lead changes in the first 3:20 of the contest, and at the first media timeout, the Eagles led 13-8.
5. Ashland was in the bonus for the last 3:09 of the opening period, and the third-best free-throw shooting team in the country took advantage to the tune of a 7-for-8 showing. The Yellowjackets, however, cut their deficit to 22-18 after the first 10 minutes, as the Eagles didn't make a field goal in the quarter's last 3:33.
6. Daugherty quickly stopped that drought with a triple 16 seconds into the second quarter. Billings made it a 27-25 AU lead, but turned the ball over more in the first half (14) than its season average per game (13.2), and trailed 50-40 at the break. Daugherty, Snyder and Stimpert all scored 10 points in the game's first 20 minutes, and Billings missed five of nine from the charity stripe.
7. Ashland started to pull away to start the third quarter, and an 11-2 run and a 61-42 lead forced a Yellowjacket timeout. As it turned out, the timeout was well-timed, as Billings scored consecutive baskets, but the Eagles still had a 15-point lead at 63-48 later in the stanza.
8. By the end of the third, the Ashland lead was whittled down to 68-61, and a late-quarter field-goal drought again was the issue. The Eagles didn't hit a shot from the floor in the final 3:34 of the period, and missed 14 of 21 shots from the field in the third quarter.
9. Ashland opened up its lead in the fourth quarter, and once Billings called a timeout with 3:29 to go, the advantage was 86-65, and the Eagles went on to win from there.
10. For the Yellowjackets, All-American Alisha Breen finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.
A Final Four matchup with Indiana (Pa.) on Wednesday (March 21) at 9:30 p.m. Eastern/8:30 p.m. local. The game will be televised live on CBS Sports Network.