Upset special was not on the menu tonight as Washburn dispensed with West Texas A&M University in the first round of the NCAA playoffs Friday night.
The Lady Blues, having just come off a successful weekend with a MIAA tournament title, looked to continue their roll. Roll they did, but in a more unconventional way. Showing the ability to turn to many different facets of their game, junior forward Dana Elliot turned up the heat in Lee Arena.
Shooting 5-for-9 in the first half, including 2-for-3 from beyond the three point line, Elliot was the benefactor of some lucky bounces.
“I wouldn’t say I exploded,” said Elliot. “The ball was just coming off the goal toward me so a lot of my points were from putbacks.”
Elliot finished the game shooting 7-for-12 from the floor, scoring 18 points to lead the team.
While Elliot gave the team the offensive punch the Lady Blues were looking for, the Lady Buffs didn’t give up so easily. With scrappy play from senior forward Ashley Leven, WTAMU trailed by just three points with just over five minutes left to go in the game. A change in defense by the Lady Buffs however would be just what Washburn Head Coach Ron McHenry was looking for.
“We had seen them run the 2-3 zone on the film we had on them,” said McHenry. “I don’t want to say we were playing tight but as soon as we saw that zone we were like, ‘oh, we’ve seen this, we know how to attack this’ so it just worked out real well for us.”
Indeed it did as Washburn took advantage of the strategy change, knocking down three points from four different players, reeling off a 12-1 run to end the half.
The second half the Lady Blues opened up a shock and awe campaign of their own, going on a 10-2 run to open the half, including scoring the first eight points of the half.
“Give them credit,” said West Texas A&M Head Coach Krista Gerlich. “We pride ourselves on playing the first and last three minutes of halves strong but they came out and played really strong to start the half.”
While Elliot might have been the catalyst for Washburn in the first half, senior center Cassie Lombardino and senior forward Stevi Schultz came on strong in the second half.
“In the second half they were pressing with their zone,” said McHenry. “We did a lot more over the top to our bigs inside to get us some quick points.”
With the lead opened up to a 20 point just three minutes into the second period, Washburn never looked back. At points throughout the half the Lady Blues opened up leads as large as 32 before the final horn sounded. Washburn won 68-36.
Moving forward, top seeded Washburn will await the winner of the final matchup of the night in the Southcentral region between Emporia State University and Tarleton State University. Game time is set for 7 p.m. Saturday night in Lee Arena.