FAIRBANKS, Alas. – The Saginaw Valley State University women's basketball team claimed the 2014 North Star Invitational title with a comeback victory over the Augustana College Vikings on Saturday night (11/29) in Fairbanks. The Lady Cardinals defeated the Vikings by a final score of 76-66.
The Cardinals and Vikings both entered the contest 2-0 in the tournament after posting victories over the host, University of Alaska, and Colorado Christian University in the first two games. After a first half which saw the Lady Cardinals down by as many as 13 points, SVSU out-scored Augustana 37-22 in the second half to claim the 10-point victory. It was the fourth-consecutive win for Saginaw Valley which improves its record to 4-1 overall, while the Vikings fall to 6-2 on the 2014-15 season.
The Cardinal ladies jumped out to an early lead to start the contest as junior Danielle Carriere knocked down a three-pointer to give the Lady Cards a 10-5 lead at the 15:57 marker. A pair of layups by sophomore Emily Wendling and senior Briana Graham gave the Cards a 14-10 lead, but the Vikings would respond and go on an 11-0 run to take a 21-14 lead with 10:43 remaining in the first half.
Carriere's second triple of the half put the Cardinals behind 24-19 but Augustana made good on a three-point jumper and a layup to extend the lead to 29-19 at the 8:24 mark. SV used a three-point basket by freshman Hailey Krewald and a layup by Graham to come within seven points at 31-24 with 6:37 remaining in the first frame.
The Vikings opened up their largest lead of the game with 4:54 remaining in the first after a pair of free throws put the home team up 39-26. A Jessica Alexander three-point jumper and a pair of free throws by Wendling cut into the deficit, but the Vikings pushed the lead up to 44-32 following two freebies with 2:19 remaining in the half.
SVSU kept battling, however, and used a 7-0 run to close out the first half which included a Carriere triple and four Zirzow free throws. The Lady Cardinals headed into the halftime break only down five points, 44-39.
Carriere followed up her 17-point performance a night before with three triples in the first half to end the first frame with nine points. Wendling chipped in with eight points and six rebounds. Augustana out-shot SVSU (48.4% to 37.5%) in the first 20 minutes of the contest.
After the teams traded 5-0 runs to open the second half, a pair of three-pointers by Alexander and Alex Green gave the Cardinals the lead, 51-49 with 13:23 remaining in the second half. The Lady Cards held the lead until the 7:48 marker when a layup by Augustana tied the game at 59.
The Cards then used an 11-0 run capped by a pair of free throws by Wendling to take its largest lead of the game and to pull away at 70-59 with less than two minutes remaining. The Vikings cut the lead down to five with 34 seconds remaining but four Zirzow free throws and two by Wendling clinched the ten point victory. SV shot 21-for-26 from the charity stripe in the game.
The Cardinals were led by a pair of double-doubles by Wendling and Zirzow. Zirzow had 13 points and 11 rebounds in 32 minutes of action which earned her Meijer "Player of the Game" honors for her efforts. Wending had a team-high 19 points and 12 rebounds and was named the MVP of the tournament for her weekend performance. Carriere finished with 13 points, including 3-for-5 behind the arc.
The Cardinals out-rebounded the Vikings by a large margin (49-24) and made seven more free throws than the home team. The Cardinal ladies shot 24-for-56 (42.9%) while the Vikings shot 23-for-61 (37.7%).
Saginaw Valley returns to the court on Thursday, December 4th, as it travels to Ohio Dominican for both teams 2014-15 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener. Tip-off is set for 5:30 pm against the Panthers.