NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – Manchester University head coach Josh Dzurick had wanted to see his 2015-16 in a battle-tested situation.
He got that and more from the Black and Gold, as the home team snuck past Midwest Conference member Carroll University of Wisconsin 61-59 in game two of the 2015 Main View Tipoff Classic.
"Both sides played hard (all the way to the end)," the Spartans' skipper said. "We got frustrated a little bit late, but we caught our breath and kept battling. I liked our intensity tonight … we didn't let one mistake become two and managed to overcome things. We were up against a great (Carroll) team, and it was good to be at home and get a win like this."
The visiting Pioneers, slipping to 1-1 on the young season, got out of the gate fast at Stauffer-Wolfe Arena, leading 5-2 over a minute in and keeping the advantage until the closing moments of the first period when an 8-0 Spartans' run got the home crowd buzzing, overturning a 16-13 deficit. MU, winning its home opener for a third successive season, kept the lead until the early portion of the second half when it swung back to CU (36-33). However, the Black and Gold answered again, reeling off another roll of eight straight points, and held the upper hand until the dramatic final moments.
The Pioneers' Sarah Begini converted a lay-up, after the visitors hit six consecutive free throws, to give them a 59-58 lead with 1:17 left. MU senior guard Justine Kruger (Francisville, Ind.) took advantage of a turnover 27 seconds later, driving the lane and forcing a foul. After hitting the front end of the two-shot opportunity with only a half-minute left, Carroll got the rebound, but sophomore forward Tori Christlieb (Culver, Ind.) grabbed the ball away from a Pioneer player in the corner, drove the basket and hit an up-and-under lay-up for a 61-59 Spartans' lead. The visitors had one more attempt before the buzzer but a three-pointer from the wing rolled off the rim, sealing the final.
"I remember (sophomore forward Samantha Bolen of Greenwood, Ind.) leaning over and telling me we were getting the rebound if the free throw missed," Christlieb said. "We managed to do so, and the final play worked out. This was a big win against a very good team."
"I was pleased to see (Tori) stay with the play and finish it off," Dzurick said. "Our returning players really went after it down the stretch."
Freshman forward/center Maddy Minehart turned in an impressive start to her Manchester University career, tallying a team-high 15 points to lead two players in double figures as Kruger ended with 12. Kruger also came up big for the home team with eight assists which was a personal single-game career high. Bolen and Christlieb were an imposing force on the boards, combining for 13 of the squad's 38 rebounds, and freshman guard/forward Beth Schaefer (Fort Wayne, Ind.) picked off three steals.
The Spartans return to action, closing out play at the 2015 Main View Tipoff Classic Saturday, Nov. 21, when they face off against Wisconsin – Whitewater at 3 p.m. The Warhawks, moving to 2-0, dispatched Berea College of Kentucky with a big second half roll in route to an 89-61 win in Friday's opener. Carroll and Berea begin day two at 1 p.m. inside Stauffer-Wolfe Arena.