The McKendree University women’s basketball team began its longest road trip of the season with a 77-68 loss Thursday evening at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo.
Defense ruled the majority of the first quarter as both teams got off to a slow start from the floor. McKendree held William Jewell scoreless for more than four minutes but only led 6-4. The Cardinals put together a run of six straight points in the later stages of the period to move in front at 10-6. The squads traded three-pointers before senior forward Jordan Morton hit two free throws following an offensive rebound with 20 seconds on the clock to trim the deficit to 13-11 after 10 minutes of play.
Junior megan Jensen scored on McKendree’s first two possessions of the second quarter to push the Bearcats back to the lead at 15-13. The Bearcats eventually stretched their lead out to 20-17 when William Jewell used a 7-0 run to regain a 24-20 advantage with just under four minutes left until the intermission. The Cardinals’ lead eventually grew to six points before holding a 30-26 lead at the break.
William Jewell opened the second half on a 9-2 run to build its first double-digit lead of the night, 39-28, with 6:09 remaining in the third quarter. McKendree chipped away at the Cardinals’ lead and closed the period with a flourish, scoring six of the final eight points to pull within 47-43 heading into the fourth quarter.
Junior forward Shayli Florine scored on a lay-up and free throw with 9:13 remaining to bring McKendree within 47-46. William Jewell responded with a 6-0 run to pull back out to a 53-46 advantage just over a minute later. The Cardinals later took their largest lead of the night at 61-49 with exactly six minutes on the clock, but had to hold off one final charge by the Bearcats.
McKendree clawed back within single digits, getting as close at 68-63 following a jumper by Diekhoff at the 1:52 mark. The teams traded scores before William Jewell was able to seal the win at the free throw line, going 7-of-8 from the stripe in the closing minute.
Sophomore guard Sydney Diekhoff led the Bearcats, scoring half of her team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter. Freshman guard Jenna Krause netted nine of her 13 points in the first half, while junior forward Megan Jensen added nine points and seven rebounds. Senior forward Jordan Morton pulled down a game-high eight rebounds for the Bearcats, who held a 35-25 advantage in rebounding against William Jewell.
Kiara Bradley scored a game-high 26 points for William Jewell.
McKendree is now 11-10 overall and 5-7 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. The Bearcats will play the second game in their four-game road swing Saturday afternoon at Rockhurst University. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.