Lady Argos Trounce Loyola in NAIA Tournament Opener - News, Sports and Weather

Lady Argos Trounce Loyola in NAIA Tournament Opener

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The No. 25 University of Great Falls women's basketball team is known for its prodigious offense.

Yet Wednesday it was a stout defensive effort that keyed the seventh-seeded Lady Argonauts' 73-54 upset victory over No. 7 and second-seeded Loyola (La.) at the 35th annual NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship, presented by Susan G. Komen Greater Kansas City at the Independence Events Center here in Independence, Mo.

“We play in the toughest league in the country, I believe, so every night we see great defenses,” UGF coach Bill Himmelberg said. “If we don't defend we're going to get blown out by 20. Our girls were ready defensively tonight.”

UGF (23-9) ensured its first-ever appearance at the NAIA National Tournament wouldn't be a one-and-done affair as the Lady Argos will take on third-seeded and No. 12 Langston (Okla.) in the Sweet 16 Friday morning at 8 a.m. Mountain Time.

“I'm speechless – I always say that – but I'm really speechless,” said UGF senior Lindsey Abramson, who scored 22 points and collected 12 rebounds. “We came out, we executed, we played as a team and we did all the little things, and I think that's why we were so successful. We played for each other.”

On Wednesday the Lady Argos held the nation's ninth-highest scoring team to just 54 points on 18 of 62 shooting – including a 2 of 20 clip from the 3-point line.

Janeicia Neely scored a game-high 26 points and collected a team-best 11 rebounds, but was the only Loyola player with double figures in either category.

The Lady Argos countered with 23 points from guard Erin Legel, 12 from guard Darah Huertas-Vining and an impressive 10-rebound effort from Kendalyn Brainard. UGF held a 52-34 advantage on the glass.

“I thought we executed well,” Himmelberg said. “(Loyola) is a great team and I thought they did a nice job trying to stop us. But our girls were just a little better on the offensive end.”

Nerves were evident early as both teams struggled to find the bottom of the basket. UGF led just 14-11 with 7:27 to go in the opening half.

Legel's pull-up trey with 1:29 to go in the first put UGF up by double digits, and the Lady Argos took a 31-20 lead into the break.

It turned out that Loyola never got closer than 11 the rest of the way – doing so again midway through the second half – as the Lady Argos pulled away for the dominant victory.

“We got the stress out of the way, relaxed and made baskets,” Himmelberg said. “We started out a little cold, but it was good to see our girls defend the whole way through.”

Legel added eight assists and seven rebounds while Stephanie McDonagh had six points and six boards. Brainard also added six points.

“I think we did a great job finding the open people,” Abramson said. “All of our guards had great games, and the posts can't score unless we have our guards.”

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