CUC Women Beat Aurora, Clinch NACC Tournament Berth

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Feb. 1, 2017 –Now that CIT is in the rearview mirror, the Concordia-Chicago women's basketball team could resume their primary goal of gaining as high a finish as possible in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference tournament at the end of the month. First, a berth in the tournament needed to be clinched, and that was at stake for the Cougars as they traveled to Thornton Gymnasium in Aurora, IL to take on the Aurora University Spartans. It was a hard-fought battle all evening, but the Cougars' teamwork came through in the end as they pulled away to an 82-72 victory.

The CUC defense got started early as they forced three AU turnovers in the first two minutes. However, the Spartans got a quick start from center Adriana Ramirez who converted two three-point plays on putbacks. Ramirez scored nine first-quarter points as the Spartans took an 18-12 lead, but two free throws by Taylor Jacobsen put the Cougars within four. Jacobsen then hit a two at the buzzer, but the call was overturned and CUC still trailed by 18-14 after one.

An 8-2 run by the Spartans to start the second quarter put their lead up to nine, but Sarah Smith made a strong inside move for two, and Crystal Corr finished off a fast break for another two. Lauren Orrthen nailed a three from the left corner to make it a two-point game, and another Corr finish on the break tied the game at 26-26. Erin Jacobsen continued the breakneck pace as she drove hard to the basket, hit the layup and was fouled. The free throw made it a 12-0 run and a 29-26 lead.

Aurora answered with a 9-0 run including two buckets by Ramirez and a three by Alyssa Brems. However, a three by E. Jacobsen broke the string, and a three by Annika Rae with 31 seconds left knotted the score. Aurora was ab le to draw a foul on their final possession, and Clarissa Perez hit two free throws to give the Spartans a 37-35 halftime lead.
The halftime stats were virtually even, Aurora taking two more shots and hitting one more. The Spartans did have the advantage on the boards, 23-19 thanks to 11 boards by Ramirez. Ramirez also had 11 points to lead all scorers while E. Jacobsen led CUC with 10.

The halftime break rejuvenated the CUC offense as they came out roaring for the third. Layups by Orr and T. Jacobsen started the engines. Brems' three momentarily interrupted the flow, but T. Jacobsen came back with a three, and Corr was at the end of another fast break to cap a 9-3 run. The Cougars never surrendered the lead from that point in the third quarter, but neither could they pull away. Aurora cashed in three free throws in the final 10 seconds of the quarter, and Concordia's lead after 30 minutes was a single point at 57-56.

Like the third, the opening minutes of the fourth quarter were kind to the Cougars. Miranda Rogersstarted it with her first three of the night, and Lofink followed with a fastbreak bucket. Again, Brems interrupted with a three, but Sarah Smith came back with a second-chance basket. The Cougars then forced a turnover under the basket, the end result being a foul and two free throws by Corr. E. Jacobsen then snuck inside on the next possession for a layup, an 11-3 run and a nine-point lead.

This time, the lead would hold for good, although not without some tense moments. The Spartans got as close as five points in the final minutes, but Lofink hit 5-6 clutch free throws down the stretch to keep the home team at a distance.

Lofink scored all 10 of her points in the fourth quarter to go with seven assists and three steals. CUC's leading scorer was T. Jacobsen with 22, 15 in the second half. Orr scored 14, followed by E. Jacobsen with 12 and Corr with 10. Smith also played a large part in the win, pulling down a team-leading 10 rebounds. All that was enough to offset Aurora's Ramirez, who finished with 20 points and 19 rebounds (eight on the offensive end).

"That's quite an effort when you can have all five starters score in double figures," said CUC head coach Rusty Rogers"Not to mention Sarah with her effort on the boards. Annika hit a couple of big buckets when we needed them, and I thought that Jasmine Cawley played one of her best defensive games tonight as well. This was a big win for us, and we're motivated now to take the next step and try to finish in the top four so we can secure a home game or two in the tournament."

In addition to clinching a tournament berth, the Cougars (12-8, 11-4) moved into fourth place as they have the tiebreaker over the Lakeland Muskies (also 11-4 NACC). The team will travel to Fond du Lac, WI on Saturday to take on Marian University.