Blues break two-game road losing skid to keep MIAA title hopes alive

Washburn lost three of five games before Saturday’s contest at Nebraska-Omaha, but a 64-62 win kept the Blues in MIAA title contention with an 8-3 record in the MIAA.

Eric Smith

The No. 10 Washburn Lady Blues have won in many different ways this season whether it be by leading the whole game, or making a comeback at the very end.

The latter happened Saturday in Omaha at Sapp Fieldhouse as the Washburn women defeated Nebraska-Omaha 64-62 and swept the season series while improving their record to 15-3 overall and 8-3 in the MIAA.

The Mavericks led several times by as much as eight points including a halftime lead of 33-25. But the Lady Blues came out strong in the second outscoring UNO by 10 points. The first lead of the game for the Washburn women came at the 5:42 mark in the second half when Dayna Rodriguez hit two free throws to make the score 54-53. The Lady Blues would never trail again as the game saw just one lead change and three ties.

“We got ourselves in a little bit of a hole in the first half, but we knew that if we came out in the second half and picked up our defense, we could get back in it,” said senior Jessica Mainz. “And that’s exactly what we did. We got a couple easy baskets and held them to some tough shots.”

The Lady Blues took a six-point lead down the stretch but with 51 seconds remaining in the game, Nebraska-Omaha cut the Lady Blues lead to just one point.

After a key time-out, Mainz made a layup with 20 seconds remaining to give Washburn a three-point lead. Washburn then fouled UNO’s Cayla Hargrove with eight seconds remaining. She made both free throws, and it was then Mainz’s turn again as she was fouled with seven seconds left. Mainz missed the first free throw and made the second. Washburn’s two-point lead looked to be in danger but UNO never got a shot off as the ball was mishandled in the last seconds.

“We got a couple of shots in late and we held them at the end of the game. They didn’t get a shot off before the buzzer so our defense really stepped up big,” said Mainz, who had five steals on the night.

The Lady Blues were out-shot from the field 50 to 42.6 percent as well as behind the arc where Washburn shot 23.8 percent (5-21) compared to UNO’s 62.5 percent (10-16).

However, the Washburn women shot better from the free throw line (86.7-66.7), out-rebounded the Mavericks (30-26), and beat them on the turnover battle (13-19).

Individually, WU senior Janice Bright led all scorers with 25 points shooting 9-21 from the field with four 3-pointers. She scored 20 of her points in the second half and had here seventh straight game of 20 points or more.

“She’s really big,” said Mainz, who added 11 points herself including nine in the second half. “She’s been awesome lately. She’s been shooting well and driving well.”

Hargrove led the Mavericks in scoring with 18 as UNO fell to 7-9 overall and 4-7 in the MIAA.

“We’re on the road a lot down the stretch,” said sophomore Hope Gregory. “So it’s important to win the ones that are close and the ones that we should win.”

Washburn, still sitting at third in the conference, plays next at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Maryville, Mo. versus Northwest Missouri. The Lady Blues took care of the Bearcats 67-48 in their first meeting Dec. 6 at Lee Arena.

“It’s always a tough game, especially there,” said Mainz. It’s a really hard place to play so we’re going to have to be on our game.”

The Lady Blues will then play at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday against Missouri Western in Lee Arena.