By Tim Glon
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The Ohio Northern women's basketball team held Willamette (Ore.) to just two points over the final 11:24 of the contest, but a 14-point deficit was just too much to overcome in a 43-41 loss on the second day of the 9th annual D3hoops.com Classic on Friday afternoon at the South Point Arena.
The Polar Bears (7-5 overall) finish their portion of the four-day tournament with a 1-1 record. They were led by junior Abby Weeks (West Chester/Mount Notre Dame) with 11 points and junior Emily Mescher (Maria Stein/Marion Local) with 10 points.
Weeks was named to the D3hoops.com All-Tournament Team as she also led ONU with 15 points in Thursday's 65-57 victory over Carthage (Wis.)
The Bearcats (5-6 overall) finish tournament play with a 2-0 record and were paced by a double-double of 13 points and 14 rebounds from Brittany Kochenderfer.
"I am very proud of the way we kept battling," ONU head coach Michele Durand said. "We played hard for 40 minutes and obviously we did a great job defensively, especially in the fourth quarter. To hold a good team like Willamette to just two points over that long of a stretch is a credit to how hard we played on defense. We just need to find a way to score on offense.
"Willamette's record is very misleading because they have played Division I and II teams. We knew they were a very talented team. It's disappointing at the same time because we played well enough to win if we had gotten a few more shots to go down."
Ohio Northern trailed 41-27 with 1:24 left in the third period and limited WU to just 1-of-11 shooting and seven turnovers in the final 11:24.
ONU scored on its final two possessions of the third quarter to get within 41-31 with 10 minutes to play, but made just 4-of-13 field goals in the fourth quarter to come up just short.
A 3-point play by senior Alyssa Manley (Lima/Bath) and a basket by Mescher got ONU within 41-36 with 6:21 left in the game.
After a WU basket, senior Jenna Dirksen (Beavercreek/Carroll) made one of two free throws with 4:29 left to make it 43-37.
Mescher got a put back at the 2:01 mark and followed with a layup with 1:29 to go to get Northern within 43-41.
Northern had two possessions in the final minute to tie the game, but a turnover with 53 seconds to go and a well-contested miss inside by Mescher with 1.2 seconds to go left the rally just short.
Ohio Northern made 17-of-54 field goals for 31.5 percent and were 4-of-14 from 3-point range for 28.6 percent, while Willamette was 15-of-46 from the floor for 32.6 percent and made 6-of-26 from beyond the arc for 23.1 percent.
WU out-rebounded ONU 40-28, but the Polar Bear defense forced the Bearcats into 17 turnovers whill committing only 10 themselves.
Northern finishes its non-conference schedule with a 6-1 mark after winning its last 12 non-conference games and will finish the season with 13 consecutive Ohio Athletic Conference contests.
ONU is now 5-1 in games played in Las Vegas, including a 3-1 mark in the D3hoops.com Classic.
In all, eight women's teams and 10 men's teams from Maine to Oregon will play in 18 games over four days at the tournament.
The Polar Bears will return to action on Jan. 5 with a home contest against Muskingum at 3 p.m. at the ONU Sports Center.