Second-half cold spell sees Bellevue upended by McPherson

Ryleigh McCartney scored a team-high 15 points against McPherson on Friday evening
Ryleigh McCartney scored a team-high 15 points against McPherson on Friday evening

McPHERSON, Kan. -- The Bellevue University women's basketball team jumped out to a 13-point halftime lead on 61.5 percent shooting but hit on just 19.4 percent of their field goal attempts in the second half as they lost to host McPherson College, 67-63, at the MC Sport Center on Friday evening in the McPherson Classic.

The loss was Bellevue's first of the season and sees the Bruins slip to 3-1 on the season while McPherson, who won their opener by 45 points on Monday, improves to 2-0.

McPherson started the game strong, seizing a 5-1 lead early in the first quarter. They matched their biggest lead at 8-4 on a free throw from Maressah Milum with 6:47 on the clock before an 8-3 Bellevue run over the next 2:40 saw Bellevue take the lead for the remainder of the half.

The Bulldogs cut the deficit to five points, 26-21, on a basket by Nicole Abunaja but saw their efforts to remain close into halftime thwarted. A basket by Shayla Dean at the 7:23 mark started an 18-10 spurt to close the half that was capped by Angeliece Tucker's three-pointer just ahead of the buzzer.

Ryleigh McCartney led the Bruins with 13 points (5-6 FG, 3-3 3FG) at the half while Elexis Martinez (8 points) and Dean (7 points) combined for 15 points at the break. Bellevue shot 61.5 percent (16-of-26) as a team from the field in the first half while McPherson struggled to a 27.0 shooting percentage (10-of-37). Free throw shooting was the one area that kept the Bulldogs (85.7%, 6-7) within shouting distance of Bellevue (46.7%, 7- 15) who struggled from the stripe in the first half.

Sonerka White paced McPherson with 10 points but on an inefficient 3-of-12 performance from the field. The biggest difference in the first half came on points in the paint as Bellevue held a 20-8 advantage, accounting for nearly the entirety of their 13-point halftime lead.

McPherson turned things around in the third quarter, out-scoring the Bruins by a 17-8 margin. They began the period on a 7-1 run capped by a Brooke Racette three-pointer at the 8:25 mark that brought the lead down to single digits and Danielle Holt's shot at the horn pulled the Bulldogs within four, the closest they had been since the first quarter.

The basket by Holt at the end of the period began a 9-0 McPherson run that saw them take their first lead since the game's early knockings. A pair of free throws from McCartney finally slowed the bleeding at the 6:25 mark as BU closed to within a point. The Bruins then forced a turnover on the defensive end which Dean converted into a pair of made free throws to give BU the lead back and set up a tense final six minutes.

In total McPherson out-scored the Bruins 36-19 in the second half as the Bulldogs improved their shooting to 36.4 percent in the second half.

McCartney led the Bruins with 15 points on the night while Martinez and Cormier joined her in double figures with 11 and 10, respectively. Dean finished with nine points while Tucker and Marylyn Mozena each chipped in five. Caletria Curtis grabbed a team-high nine rebound to go along with her six points.  Martinez added seven boards of her own.

White paced the McPherson offense with 22 points as Holt tossed in 12 with eight rebounds and Kristina Battle contributed nine points and five boards. Racette led the Bulldogs with nine rebounds.

BU continues play at the McPherson Classic tomorrow with a noon tip-off against Bethel College (Kan.).