Owls earn 76-71 win behind stifling second-quarter defense

Courtesy of William Woods University Athletics. (Contributed Photo)

POINT LOOKOUT -- William Woods (4-1) found itself in a precarious situation after the first quarter on Saturday afternoon, but a stifling defensive performance in the second quarter delivered a 76-71 win over Southwestern Assemblies of God University (1-2) on Saturday.

Natalie Thomas led a balanced Woods offense with 15 points.

The Owls controlled the tap, and Thomas knocked home a layup for a quick 2-0 lead, but the Lions answered with a pair of triples followed by a jumper by Kyla McMinn to take an 8-2 lead.

Aiyanna Tanksley knocked home a jumper to bring the Owls within four, but McMinn responded with a triple to take the lead back to three possessions. SAGU extended the gap as far as 26-16 before Macie Edwards earned a trip to the free throw line to bring WWU within eight as the horn sounded.

McMinn answered a Tanskley jumper to open the second quarter, hoping to keep SAGU's momentum rolling, but the Owls had other ideas. Woods clamped down on defense, with SAGU going 0-14 from the floor over the final 9:16 half. On the offensive end, the Owls uncorked a 20-0 run to take a 40-28 lead into the locker room.

Woods extended its margin to 14 points by the end of the third quarter and pulled away as far as 63-44 with 6:55 to play. With the Owls hitting at 52.7 percent clip (19-36) through three, SAGU had little choice but to start fouling and hope for the best.

Despite getting thrown out of its field goal rhythm -- shooting just 27.3 percent in the fourth -- head coach Terry Nash's commitment to free throw shooting paid off as the Owls knocked down 14 of their 20 trips to the stripe.

WWU outshot the Lions 46.8 percent (22-47) to 32.9 percent (25-76) from the floor, pulling down 46 rebounds to just 39 for SAGU.

The Owls take a brief foray into exhibition action next Saturday, visiting Northwest Missouri State for a 1:30 p.m. tipoff.