For three quarters, Saturday’s county rivalry game between the No. 17 Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats and the No. 7 Taylor Trojans was every bit the intense, hard-fought Crossroads League matchup that was widely anticipated.
Then the Trojans held IWU scoreless in the first 6:57 of the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 62-49 win.
Taylor had used a trapping defense to surge ahead briefly in the third quarter, but IWU responded and Taylor dropped the trap. To start the fourth quarter, though, Taylor changed the pressure. “Different press, different alignment,” said Trojans Head Coach Jody Davis, “It was a timing thing that we’ve been working on.”
“They did a really good job of mixing up things, and then adding some pressure,” said IWU Head Coach Ethan Whaley, “They turned us over four or five times in that stretch.”
Taylor had re-taken the lead, 39-38, on a three-pointer by Becca Buchs late in the third quarter. IWU had held two brief leads in that period, the only times they led in a game that had been new-shoes tight. After closing the third quarter with her fifth three-pointer of the game, Buchs quickly added two more threes to start the fourth, stretching the Trojan lead to 45-38.
“Becca has a very quick release; she only needs a little room to get [her shot] off,” Davis said, “I thought Wesleyan’s defense was really good–they held us to 62 points, and in the month of February we’ve been averaging 83–so give them credit for the defensive effort, but when Becca is left open–even that little gap–she’s got a rhythm. That’s why she’s one of the top shooters in the nation.”
Buchs had started the game with three three-pointers in the first five minutes as Taylor got out to a 14-5 lead. She would wind up with a game-high 27 points, including shooting 7-10 from the arc. The three-pointer Buchs hit to start the fourth quarter set a Taylor record for most triples in a season, breaking the mark (110) she had set herself last season.
Buchs’ offense started the Trojans off well in the fourth, but it was their defense that made the difference. By the time the Wildcats scored (on a three-pointer by Carly Lange), the Trojans led 56-41, and the game had been decided.
“You’ve got to credit them, they did a really good job of taking us out of what we wanted to do,” said Whaley.
Haley Stratman backed up Buchs with 16 points for the Trojans. Becca’s sister, Abby Buchs, had eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Gabby Suarez led IWU with 13 points. Adrianna Trexler, who attended Oak Hill last year, came off the bench for 11 points.
The win gave Taylor a 27-3 overall record, and a 15-3 mark in the Crossroads League, good for second place behind Marian (16-2). They will host Mount Vernon Nazarene, which finished in seventh place, on Tuesday night in the first round of the Crossroads League tournament. IWU finished the regular season 22-8 overall and 13-5 in the conference–good for fourth. They will host fifth-place Grace for their first-round game on Tuesday night.