In an offensive shootout, defense proved to be the difference Wednesday for the St. Ambrose women’s basketball team.
Lapses during the fourth quarter allowed 23rd-rated Olivet Nazarene and its high-octane offense to pull away from the Queen Bees 112-101 in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference opener for both teams at Lee Lohman Arena.
The Tigers, averaging 105.3 points per game, forced tempo and launched 79 shots but needed to hit 8-of-15 shots from field in the fourth quarter to hold off St. Ambrose.
"For three quarters, we played the way we wanted to, but our defense the last quarter wasn’t what it needed to be," said Candace Finnin, a junior who led five Queen Bees in double figures with a 23-point game on 9-of-12 shooting from the field that included a 5-of-7 touch from 3-point range.
The game was a sprint from the start, with the teams tied at 27 after one quarter, St. Ambrose ahead 60-57 at halftime and Olivet Nazarene taking an 86-84 advantage into the fourth quarter.
"We did a lot of good things for the first three quarters, but our defense got away from us in the fourth quarter, and against a team like that you have to make stops," Queen Bees coach Krista Van Hauen said. "It seemed like they were hitting everything."
A lay-up by St. Ambrose freshman Madi Epperson did tie the game at 99-99 with 2 minutes, 51 seconds remaining, but a pair of baskets by the Tigers’ Kayla Ross over the next 29 seconds separated by a missed lay-up on the other end allowed Olivet Nazarene to take control.
The Queen Bees went scoreless for a two-minute stretch as the Tigers opened a lead that grew to 106-99 on a lay-in by Lauren Rouse with 1:07 to go.
Charlotte Flynn ended the St. Ambrose drought with a lay-up with :47 remaining before Olivet Nazarene (4-3, 1-0 CCAC) connected on six straight free throws to secure the win.
The Tigers, led by 18 points from Maggie Schmidt, trailed by as many as eight points in the first half but outscored the Queen Bees 20-6 at the free-throw line and 42-21 from 3-point range.
St. Ambrose (1-5, 0-1) kept things close by dominating inside, where Rock Island’s Mercedes Jackson hit 9-of-12 shots on her way to a 19-point game that was complemented by 15 points from Flynn and 14 from Moline’s Hailey Cook.
"Our post players did a good job of finishing shots, and that’s something as a team we’ve got to keep working at," Van Hauen said. "But, it starts on the defensive end for us. We’ve got to keep working there."