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The Journal Gazette

  • Justin Rust | For The Journal Gazette Indiana Tech's Bella Lozano-Dobbs gets a steal after tipping the ball away from Eastern Oregon's Emma Logan. Lozano-Dobbs scored a layup off the play.

Saturday, March 09, 2019 1:00 am

Indiana Tech defense steps up

Stifle high-scoring Eastern Oregon to reach NAIA quarters

JUSTIN RUST | For The Journal Gazette

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Jessie Biggs' mantra for her team is defense. This season, Indiana Tech has held opponents to 34 percent shooting, third-best in the nation.

Eastern Oregon was going to test the Warriors' stout defense in Friday's second-round NAIA Division II national tournament game at the Tyson Events Center.

The Mountaineers shot 45.8 percent this season, the sixth-best mark in the nation. Maya Ah You Dias is one of the top scorers in the nation, averaging 23.7 points and shooting 54.4 percent from the field, including 45.3 percent from behind the arc.

It took a quarter and a half, but Tech's defense won out. Rachel Bell spent the game making open shots hard to come by for Ah You Dias, and Tech held Eastern Oregon to 38.5 percent shooting (20 of 52) as the Warriors moved onto today's noon quarterfinals at noon with a 61-57 victory.

“I think we really executed our game plan. Every game we approach differently with what we are trying to take away depending on who we play,” Biggs said. “Our girls have a high basketball IQ and that's something we look for in recruiting. A high basketball IQ is priceless to me. You can set up different scouts. The girls buy into it. That's what makes us good.”

Ah You Dias did score a game-high 17 points, but with Bell guarding her, it was on 6-of-18 shooting. Ah You Dias scored 10 points in the first half but made only two field goals in the second half, one each in the third and fourth quarters. She also attempted only two free throws, both in the third quarter.

“Rachel Bell is our defensive stopper. She knows she's getting the best player. Rachel's physicality and length really caused her some problems,” Biggs said. “I told Rachel the only break she's getting today is when (Ah You Dias) comes out. That's what Rachel is in there to do. Our players embrace bringing what they are good at for the betterment of the whole. Rachel's thing is defense. She did her job today.”

Bell finished with a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Alexis Hill added 10 points.

“I think a big thing we focused on was playing as a team because sometimes we stop from that. But today was a great day and all of us played well,” Bell said. “Like coach said, we have to play defense. Getting stops slows the momentum a little bit and that helps us because we like to run in transition.”

It did take a bit for Tech's defense to find its consistency against Eastern Oregon (29-4). The Mountaineers had an 11-6 lead and went into the second quarter up 17-15.

A 10-0 run to start the second put Eastern Oregon up 27-18 with 6:33 left in the half. The Mountaineers didn't score again in the half.

Tech (32-3) started to cause turnovers and drew a couple of charges. The turnovers led to points, and it fueled a 16-0 run to end the half. Tech 34-27 at halftime.

Of the 19 points Tech scored in the second quarter to take the lead, 11 points were off turnovers.

“Our goal was to be aggressive with one-on-one (defense) because our team can take anyone off the dribble one-on-one,” said senior guard Bella Lozano-Dobbs, who had 13 points, three steals and three assists. “Defense is key for us to win our games. It will get our offense going as well. Coach said if we didn't defend, we weren't going to win this game.”

The Mountaineers did get some offense going to start the fourth. Ah You Dias and Madison Crews hit back-to-back 3, and Whitney Meier made a layup to give Eastern Oregon a 52-50 lead with 7:06 left.

Senior guard Jenna Szostak had a quick response for Tech. Szostak has 63 3-pointers on the season, and she hit her 64th at a big time as it put the Warriors back ahead at 53-52.

Tech didn't trail again.

“It was huge. That's what Jenna does. She's a shooter. She knows her role on the team. Just to have that confidence to come off the bench and hit that shot is huge,” Biggs said. “Everyone knows she shoots it, but I thought she guarded very well. That was great to see.”

Eastern Oregon did tie the game a couple of occasions, but Tech had an answer each time. Then with 13 seconds left, DeAnn Kauffman, a 73.6 percent free throw shooter, knocked down two free throws to ice the game.