Red-hot off back-to-back home victories, the University of Dallas women’s basketball team went on the road to Memphis, Tenn. and ground out two more wins over Rust College and Westminster College to extend their winning streak to four and improve their overall record to 4-1. The Crusaders continue to be strong in the fourth quarter and to be able to close out close games.
The team had a slow start against Rust on Friday, hitting just one field goal in the first quarter as they trailed 8-12. They were also 0-9 from the three-point line in the opening frame. Dallas was able to get to the rim in the second quarter however, but still trailed 18-23 at halftime, which been a growing trend as the Crusaders have had just one halftime lead in the young season.
“Rust is a hard team to play because they take you out of your game so well,” Head Coach Greta Grothe said.
Dallas’s two star post players, Michelle DeCoud and Seana Stoia, scored just two points apiece in the first half, but they would take over in the second. DeCoud notched her third double double in four games, finishing with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Stoia had a double double herself with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Senior guard Holly Tonry also had a solid game, contributing nine points, nine assists, six rebounds, and three steals. The Crusaders would go on to win the game 53-49.
“We just played really controlled and disciplined in the last five minutes of the game,” Grothe said. “We hit shots when we needed to hit shots.”
The following night against Westminster was more of the same. The Crusaders weren’t quite as slow offensively, but they trailed for most of the first half, which they ended with 22-28 deficit.
Again the teams went back and forth to begin the second half, and Westminster’s lead ballooned to 28-38 with 6:02 left in the third quarter. That’s when Stoia took over, knocking down three shots from long range and adding two more in the final frame, going 5-5 from behind the arc for the game. She finished with a career-high 27 points and 10 rebounds.
“Seana played out of her mind,” Grothe said.
After Westminster’s Mirrakohl Johnson made a layup to take a 42-43 lead with 1:27 to go in the third, the Crusaders would go on a 16-0 run where DeCoud and Stoia combined for 13 of the 16 points.
The big fourth quarter sealed the deal for Dallas as it has so often in the early stages of this season, as they would go on to win 63-50 and improve to 4-1.
“We were able to gain two come-from-behind wins and it really showed that as a team we were able to finish games and not give up even when it got tough,” Stoia said. “Starting the season off 4-1 has been a great feeling for us as a team and really has made everyone excited for the rest of the season.”
The strong finishes in these close games have been important, as the team was just 2-9 in games decided by six points or less a year ago.
Despite the early success, Grothe acknowledges the team still has work to do.
“I think to be completely honest we played two really good halves, they just weren’t in the same game,” Grothe said, nodding to the slow starts in both games. “We’re getting better but we have a long way to go. Our league is tough, so we have to get better every day.”