The University of Evansville women's basketball team saw its season come to an end Thursday night at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Mich., as the Purple Aces fell to host Eastern Michigan, 78-65, in the first round of the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI). UE finishes its season with an overall record of 15-16.
Junior Mallory Ladd led all players with 21 points, as she finished 8-for-12 from the floor and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. Freshman Sara Dickey and junior Kat Taylor tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively, to round out Evansville's (15-16) list of double-digit scorers.
With her 11 points, Dickey moved into second place on both the Missouri Valley Conference's freshman single-season scoring list and Evansville's single-season scoring list with 546 points. The Montezuma, Ind., native's mark trails only Jackie Stiles (618) on the MVC freshman list and Shyla Puelston's UE single-season record of 574 points set during the 1998-99 season. In addition, as a team, Evansville hit 209 treys on the season, coming just two shy of the program record of 211 established in 1990-91.
In its first postseason appearance since 2009, the Aces opened the game on a 10-4 run, as Taylor capped the rally by draining a three-pointer from the left wing with 17:11 remaining in the first half.
Eastern Michigan (18-13) responded and trimmed UE's advantage to two at 12-10, when Jamaica Bucknor connected on a 12-foot jumper at the 12:54 mark, before Ladd quickly pushed Evansville's lead back to five by sinking a three on the Aces' next possession.
The Eagles tied the contest for the first time since the opening tip at 20-20, when Shannise Heady made one of two free throws with 5:53 left in the opening stanza, sparking a 12-5 EMU scoring spurt that resulted in a 32-25 Eastern Michigan lead, following a 15-footer out of the hand Janay Morton with just under a minute left in the period.
Ladd cut to the margin to just four, 32-28, at the half, when she beat the buzzer with an off-balance, 25-foot shot from the left wing.
Evansville shot 30.6 percent (11-for-36) from the field in the opening 20 minutes, including a 33.3 percent clip (5-for-15) from behind the arc. However, Eastern Michigan connected on 15 of their 40 first-half shot attempts (37.5 percent) and turned 12 offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points.
The Eagles quickly regained the momentum in the opening minutes of the second half, as EMU scored the first six points of the period, before Ladd cut Eastern Michigan's lead to 38-30 on the Aces' first bucket with 17:28 remaining in the contest.
Freshman Kenzie Gustin started a 10-2 run for UE, when she rattled home a three from the left corner with 16:09 on the clock, before Ladd tied the game, 42-42, by sinking yet another mid-range jumper.
With 8:18 left in the game, Heady knocked down a pair of free throws to cap a 9-2 Eastern Michigan run, but Evansville would counter with a 10-2 rally and grab a 59-58 advantage at the 6:05 mark, following a pair of Ladd free throws.
It would be a back-and-forth affair over the next two minutes, but the Eagles would go on a 15-2 run over the final 4:42 to seal the victory and advance to the second round of the WBI.
Five EMU players finished in double figures, including Heady and Cha Sweeney, who finished with 19 points apiece. Morton and Phillis Webb tallied 14 points each and Webb posted a double-double with 10 rebounds. Bucknor also ended the night with a double-double by recording 11 points and a game-high 13 boards.
Evansville shot 35.7 percent from the field (25-for-70) for the game and went 8-for-30 from long range for a 26.7 percent clip, while Eastern Michigan drained 45.8 percent of its field goal tries (33-for-72), including a 56.3 percent clip (18-for-32) in the second half.
The Eagles also dominated the boards, as they grabbed 51 rebounds to the Aces' 36 and scored 19 second-half points.
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