Mavs swatted aside
Dowling's defense, led by Wilson, clamps down on Mesa in Elite Eight loss
SAN ANTONIO — It wasn’t so much Danielle Wilson’s height that caused problems Tuesday for the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team.
It was her long arms that seemingly came out of nowhere to block seven shots and alter several more in Dowling (N.Y.) College’s 60-44 victory in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
“She’s a physical, tall player, and we knew we were going to have to use counter moves and go around her,” CMU’s 6-foot senior forward Kelsey Sigl said. “Unfortunately we didn’t stick to that, and she was able to get however many, seven, blocks tonight.”
Early on, Sigl used her quickness to slip around Wilson for layups, but the Mavericks couldn’t sustain an inside attack against the 6-foot-3 senior who played three years at Baylor.
And when the outside shots stopped falling, the fourth-ranked Mavericks were in trouble.
“We didn’t see shots go in,” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said. “Every time a shot didn’t go in, there was a look over at the bench like, ‘What do we need to do?’ In these type of situations, to win you’ve got to play great defense and you’ve got to be able to score, and we weren’t able to score tonight.”
Dowling (29-3) leads the nation in field-goal defense, and the Lions showed why, challenging shots and relying on not only Wilson’s long arms, but the length of 6-1 forward Julie Koppl, who had two blocks, including one on a 3-point attempt by Sharaya Selsor in the first half.
“They put a 6-1 girl on me, and after I got that shot blocked I couldn’t seem … I started second-guessing myself,” said Sharaya Selsor, who finished with seven points.
“After you think you make a strong move, you’re still going into someone’s arms, you start second-guessing yourself. Offensively we did that too much.”
The Mavericks were quicker than Dowling, which plays Augustana in today’s semifinals after the Vikings upset top-ranked Clayton State 81-68, and when they got in their transition game they were in good shape.
In their half-court game, though, the Mavs (31-2) were able to move the ball, but they couldn’t get the floor spread enough. Dowling tipped several passes for turnovers, forcing 17 in the game.
“I felt like they flew at us,” Wagner said. “When we got the ball on the perimeter they came out and really made us want to put the ball on the floor. We rushed a couple shots, we passed up a couple shots.
“Defensively they had us off balance. Usually that’s our strong point. We move the ball and can make shots, and then we spread the floor a little bit and open up the paint, but that wasn’t the case tonight.”
When the Mavericks did get the defense spread out and drove, there was Wilson, who doesn’t have to jump much to block shots or rebound. She simply reached over the Mavericks, who often had good inside position and finished with one more rebound than Dowling (29-3).
Wilson scored most of her 14 points when the Mavs’ post players hedged to help on her high-post screens, then she slipped past the defender for layups.
“The points she got, we didn’t make her work hard enough to get those,” Wagner said. “They were able to do a good job setting screens out there. They saw how we were guarding that, using the hard hedge, and she was able to slip it a couple of times. She’s a great player. To slow her down takes a whole army.”
Mesa led 20-17 with 4:14 to play in the first half when Sharaya Selsor hit a running hook in the lane, and Katrina Selsor took a charge against Wilson on a high screen and roll.
Dowling went on an 8-0 run after that to take a 25-20 halftime lead.
“We talked about we were going to have to win it on the defensive side,” Wagner said. “We had to get stops. We closed out the half from the media timeout, they went on an 8-0 run to go up 25-20. We just needed to chip away in the second half, and unfortunately our shots didn’t go in and they played just as good of defense on us.”
Sigl adjusted in the second half to help the Mavericks try to chip away, hitting mid-range jumpers, but CMU couldn’t get enough stops on the other end.
Sigl finished with 15 points, breaking Tonya Stites’ single-season scoring record of 604 points set in 1992. Sigl scored 610 points this season.
Katrina Selsor didn’t score in her final game, but finished with 10 rebounds and four assists. Bruna Deichmann came off the bench to score 11 points in her final game, and junior point guard Christen Lopez had eight points.
Dowling, which averages only 59 points per game, was efficient in the second half, hitting 10 of 13 shots from the field. Mesa put the Lions on the line too much in the second half, and they converted 14 of 18 free throws to slowly push the lead to double figures.
Colorado Mesa, which entered the Elite Eight with the No. 16 scoring offense in the nation, 73.6 points per game, had its lowest scoring output and its second-lowest shooting percentage of the season.
“Dowling is great defensively, and they showed it tonight,” Wagner said. “They’re really long, and they switch screens, and they had a good game plan. When we did get an open look, it didn’t go in.”