NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – There were plenty to smiles to go around the Manchester University women's basketball team Saturday, Jan. 7.
And with good reason.
The Spartans, returning to .500 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play, turned away previous league unbeaten Rose-Hulman in an overtime thriller at Stauffer-Wolfe Arena. A crowd of better than 300 fans got their money's worth and more from the tight-knit clash that ended with a 57-53 victory for MU (4-9 overall, 3-3 HCAC).
Taking advantage of cool shooting from the visiting Fightin' Engineers, the Black and Gold tallied 13 of the game's first 19 points. Keeping poised whenever the conference leaders were on the verge of a run, Coach Josh Dzurick's squad remained on the right side of the scoreboard throughout the afternoon, trailing only three times over the 45 minutes. A 10-of-14 effort at the charity stripe in the extra session finally decided the outcome.
"I thought our group really wanted this," Dzurick said. "We worked very well together especially in communication. It was nice to see that especially when we got the early lead … never getting too high but staying focused. The overall effort was good."
"We needed this," he added. "We've been asking individuals to get out of their comfort zone towards doing different things than they're used to. A game like this shows they can do that. We've been saying potential, potential, potential too and not getting the results in the win column as often we'd like. Today was important that way, as it's huge for the team knowing they can get a win like this."
Sophomore guard Faith-Alexis Graham (Indianapolis, Ind.) helped spark the Spartans, scoring a single-game personal career best 16 points to go with three steals. "Coach said we had nothing to lose, so the team went out and played that way," Graham said. "I'm getting more comfortable (handling the point guard role) which is something I've been working towards, especially in the off-season."
She was joined by a pair of upperclasswomen in double-digit points. Senior guard Jenifer Lee (Rockville, Ind.) contributed 13 and dished out four assists, and junior forward/center Samantha Bolen (Greenwood, Ind.) continued to be consistent inside the paint with 10 to go with six rebounds.
Manchester University, climbing into a tie for sixth on the HCAC standings with Defiance College, wraps up back-to-back games on their home Stan Weller Court honoring Coaches Hoffman and Wolfe Wednesday, Jan. 14, as Bluffton University visits for a 7:30 p.m. start.