Women's Basketball Upsets #21 West Liberty, 73-69, In Thrilling Home Opener

Women's Basketball Upsets #21 West Liberty, 73-69, In Thrilling Home Opener

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A second half rally by Ohio Dominican's women's basketball team led the Panthers to a 73-69 win over No. 21 West Liberty on Tuesday night in Alumni Hall, ODU's first win over a top-25 team in its Division II era.

The Panthers improved to 3-0 and now have consecutive wins over teams that qualified for the 2015 NCAA Tournament in Cedarville and West Liberty. The Hilltoppers, who just defeated defending national champs and current-No. 5 California (Pa.), fell to 2-1.

In a game that featured 14 ties and 12 lead changes, the Panthers trailed by seven on a pair of occasions in the third quarter, but forged even at 54-54 on a 7-0 run to close the period.

Junior Tori Beth Leader (West Portsmouth, Ohio) hit a jumper and layup to give ODU a 64-61 lead with 5:54 left in the game, but the visitors scored the next five points to pull back in front, 66-64.

Junior Lindsey Blanford (Xenia, Ohio) tied the score on a layup and senior Melissa Scherpenberg (Cincinnati, Ohio) made a layup, giving ODU a 67-66 lead with just under four minutes to play.

The Hilltoppers hit a triple to regain a 69-67 lead, but the Panthers clamped down defensively from that point on. ODU came up with three consecutive stops on that end, and Scherpenberg drew a foul in the paint and hit both free throws to knot the game at 69 with 1:23 left.

Scherpenberg then came away with a steal, and Leader made a layup with 57 ticks left to put ODU back in front, 71-69.

The Panther defense came up with another stop, but could not score on the other end, giving West Liberty another possession with 18.5 seconds. The Hilltoppers drew a foul on a three point attempt with 3.8 seconds left, and after missing the first two free throws, tried to intentionally miss the third and grab the board.

Sophomore Darian Rose (Fort Loramie, Ohio) corralled the miss, though, and hit two free throws to ice the win.

The Panthers held West Liberty to 41.8 percent shooting (28-of-67) after the Hilltoppers entered the game shooting 48.4 percent on the season. ODU also held a 52-31 edge in rebounding and forced 19 WL turnovers, creating 22 points off of them.

Leader scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds and Scherpenberg notched her third straight double-double to start the year, scoring 15 points with 11 rebounds. Junior Lauren Bates (Hilliard, Ohio) added 10 points with five boards, four assists and matched a career high with six steals, and Blanford came off the bench to score nine points with five rebounds.

Junior Madi Rittinger (Dayton, Ohio) score nine points with six boards and Rose tallied seven points with a career best seven boards.

The Panthers jumped to a 19-11 lead in the first quarter, scoring nine straight points. Sophomore Megan Eyre (Fayetteville, Ohio) had consecutive layups, and Rittinger and Scherpenberg each had layups as well to give ODU the eight point cushion with less than a minute to play in the period.

WL answered with a 13-2 run, going in front 24-21 two minutes into the second quarter, and led 29-25 with two minutes left in the quarter. Leader hit a three pointer, then found Blanford by herself under the basket for a layup, as ODU drew even 32-32 at the break.

ODU held West Liberty to 4-of-19 (21.1 percent) shooting from behind the arc in the first half and 35.1 percent shooting overall (13-of-37). The Panthers, though, made just 12-of-36 from the field themselves (33.3 percent) and just one triple.

Ohio Dominican hits the road for a 6 p.m. (CT) contest at St. Joseph's on Thursday.

Contact: Scott Miles