Strong second half carries IWU to eighth straight victory

When it comes to the game of basketball, there will be times when stagnant offense plagues a team.

However, regardless of offensive production, teams can always play sound, effective defense, and with time, the offense will work itself out. 

On Wednesday night at the Luckey Arena, Indiana Wesleyan’s defense throughout the contest, and their offensive explosion in the second half proved to be the difference, as the Wildcats recorded their eighth straight triumph with an 83-52 rout of the Concordia University Cardinals.

From the opening tip until the final whistle, the Wildcats made life difficult for the Concordia offense. IWU held the Cardinals to 19 points under their average, while also giving up just 20 field goals on 56 attempts, a paltry 35.7 percent. 

While their defensive play was stellar throughout, it was fully on display in the final two quarters. The Wildcats forced 13 of their 22 turnovers after halftime and outscored the Cardinals 50-27 to turn an eight-point halftime lead into a 31-point blowout. 

Additionally, the Wildcats scored 30 points off of those 22 Concordia turnovers. 

“Defense is what we talk about,” IWU Head Coach Ethan Whaley said. “We really wanted to emphasize defense and really emphasize stopping the ball. Credit our team and credit our focus, we certainly did that tonight.” 

Offensively, despite 11 first half turnovers, the Wildcats were efficient from the field, shooting 33-of-65 (51 percent). Fifty of their 83 points came in the points, and they scored 20 second chance points off 13 offensive rebounds. 

“In the second half, it felt like we settled in,” Whaley said. “We moved the basketball and we got reversals. We are just hard to guard for 10 to 15 seconds of every possession.”

Armed with a 33-25 lead at halftime, IWU point guard Gabby Suarez, who has played some of her best basketball for the Wildcats in the last few contests, dominated the third quarter, helping the Wildcats to increase their lead from eight to 19. Of her 21 points, 12 came in the third stanza, including seven points in a row to help the Wildcats take full control. 

“She was great, I’m proud of Gabby,” Whaley said. “And the crazy thing is…I think there is more room for growth. She embraced the leadership role. The ball is in her hands a lot, and if she doesn’t lead and organize, we are going to be in trouble. She has really stepped up. She’s been fearless. She’s really gotten into a rhythm, and it’s been huge for our team.”

Jordan Reid, who continues to impress both her coaches and teammates alike with her tremendous athletic ability and her basketball skill, put the game away in the final 10 minutes. After scoring just two points in the first three quarters, the gifted freshman forward scored 12 points in the fourth, which included an emphatic dunk off a steal, to secure the Wildcats’ eighth consecutive victory.  

“She just continues to get better. She is a sponge,” Whaley said. “She is so unselfish and so hungry to learn and grow. I think she can get way better. Her dynamic ability to impact the game without touching the basketball is fantastic. She’s growing like crazy.” 

Suarez’s 21 points led the Wildcats, and she also recorded three rebounds and eight assists. Reid finished with 14 points and five rebounds, while Anne Secrest put together a solid performance with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. 

Concordia was led by J’may Simmons, who scored 14 points. No other Cardinal finished with more than eight.

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