CUA struggles with shooting, falls to Mules 63-54 in tourney

CUA struggles with shooting, falls to Mules 63-54 in tourney

ALLIANCE, Ohio – CUA was unable to overcome a tough shooting performance on Friday in a 63-54 loss to Muhlenberg in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  Making their tournament debut, the Cardinals shot just 29% from the field, but Katarina Owunna did all she could to keep them in it with a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds.

CUA started fast, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first 2:49, with Jill Woerner and Owunna combining for all seven points.

Muhlenberg answered with a 7-0 run of its own though, capped by an Alexandra Chili 3-pointer at the 15:04 mark to tie things up.

The Mules added four more points to take an 11-7 lead, but CUA answered with four straight to knot the score at 11 with 12:38 to play before the half.

After Muhlenberg opened up a four-point lead, Owunna sank a pair at the charity stripe to bring the Cardinals within two at the 7:26 mark. 

Later in the half, Muhlenberg's Kate Clawson sank a jumper with 4:36 on the clock, and CUA found itself down 25-19. 

Two Woerner free throws brought CUA within four, but Alita Zabrecky got inside for a layup for the Mules to increase their lead back to six.

Owunna sank a jumper with 1:48 to play to bring CUA within 29-23, and that wound up being the final points of the half.

The Cardinals struggled with their shooting in the opening 20 minutes, connecting on only 23% from the floor and just 1 of 7 from 3-point range.  Muhlenberg shot 38% from the field, but CUA won the rebound battle, 26-20.

Owunna led the Cards with 11 first half points and 7 boards, while Woerner added 8 points and 5 rebounds.  Zabrecky sank 5 of 10 shots from the floor en route to 11 points to lead Muhlenberg with Chili adding 6.

Muhlenberg started the second half on fire, scoring the first eight points to extend to a 37-23 lead with 17:11 to play.

Zabrecky got inside for a layup at the 13:43 mark, which put the Mules in front by 17, but an Emily Grabiak 3-pointer and Owunna layup cut the lead to 12 with 12:24 remaining.

Trailing by 15 with 7:47 to play, CUA went on an 8-0 run to get within seven points with 5:39 on the clock, but the Cardinals then went over two minutes without scoring. 

Chili ended the CUA scoring run with two free throws at the 3:30 mark to make it a nine-point spread.

Holly Janicki sank a 3-pointer for CUA with 50 seconds to play, which made it a six-point game, but the Cardinals were unable to get any closer the rest of the way.

Joining Owunna in double figures for CUA was Woerner with 13 points and 7 boards, while Kelli Josephsen pulled down 10 rebounds and scored 7 points.

CUA had a tough time shooting all night, connecting on only 29% from the field and 3 of 17 from downtown (18%).  The Cardinals pulled down 48 rebounds, including 16 on the offensive end and they also recorded six blocks.

Zabrecky netted 19 points to lead the Mules, with Chili scoring 18 and Leeann Lanza adding 12.  Muhlenberg recorded 19 assists on 22 field goals and committed only nine turnovers.

CUA finishes its 2011-12 season with a record of 22-6, with the 22 wins a new school record. The Cardinals won their first-ever conference championship and played in their first NCAA Tournament this season, making it one of the most successful in school history.

Photography by Tom Cammett, Diamond Images, Inc.