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Trojans end long losing streak to Wildcats

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

UPLAND — Indiana Wesleyan University had defeated Taylor 17 consecutive times in women's basketball and Wednesday's renewal started out like the Wildcats would have No. 18 comfortably in hand.

Yet, after IWU ran out to an 8-0 lead, the Trojans closed out the first half impressively and opened a 16-point halftime lead on their way to a 68-56 victory over their cross-county rivals in Don Odle Arena.

NAIA Division II No. 13 IWU (14-5, 6-1) fell into a first place Crossroads League tie with Marian and 22nd ranked Taylor (12-7, 5-2) remained tied for third place with Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio). For the Trojans, it was a much-needed win after Saturday when they let a lead slip away on the road and fell to the Trojans 75-66.

"It was huge for us is the only way I can put it," said Taylor's Kendall Bradbury, NAIA DII's leading scorer who had 24 points and 10 rebounds. "After a bad loss at Marian, a game we should have won, we got after it a lot in practice Monday and Tuesday and i think it showed.

"We got down 8-0 and hit the switch and realized we could end a long losing streak here tonight, and to do it at home against Indiana Wesleyan. We've been close multiple years, and this will switch some things up in the conference — and to be the team that shifted it is pretty cool."

Taylor's victory was its first over IWU since Jan. 20, 2010 when the Trojans defeated a fourth-ranked Wildcats team 75-69 at Odle Arena. Wednesday's game was the first since Jan. 10, 2013 where both teams were nationally ranked, with the Trojans breaking into the top 25 just today.

"We overcame some adversity," first-year Taylor coach Jody Martinez said. "This program hasn't beaten Wesleyan since 2010 and it says a lot to the upperclassmen's leadership. They found ways to hang on we've lost games where we were up 11 in the fourth quarter, so I think we're taking big steps in the right direction

"We give a lot of credit to the girls and their passion and work ethic," Martinez added. "We've got 5 1/2 weeks left (in the regular season) and we got to keep working hard."

Although Bradbury as usual led the Trojans, it was senior Cassidy Wyse who got them going after falling behind 8-0. The senior sank back-to-back 3-pointers that triggered an 11-0 run, culminated with Wyse connecting on a driving layup and free throw after being fouled.

Taylor never trailed again and went on to outscore the Wildcats 11-3 the remainder of the first quarter and double the score 22-11 at the break. A low-scoring second quarter was more of the same with the Trojans pulling ahead 36-20 at halftime behind 16 points from Bradbury and nine from Wyse.

Wyse's third 3-pointer gave Taylor a 20-point lead (46-26) at 6:46 of the third quarter, and it peaked at 27 points (55-38) on a Bradbury free throw with 1:07 left in the period.

"It was a tough first half for us and the biggest struggle for us was on the defensive end," IWU first-year coach Ethan Whaley said. "You're going to have games especially on the road where shots don't fall and what we talk about is you got to have an effort and got to have a grit, and we lacked that tonight.

"(Taylor) they used their length and made us uncomfortable ... and did a great job of making us make plays," Whaley added. "Our teamed played hard, but we didn't play with the toughness that Taylor had. We needed to match that and the tougher team won."

Anna Imhoff attempted to rescue IWU almost singlehandedly with a career-high 30 points — 26 in the second half. The senior guard was 0-of-3 from the field in the opening half but then knocked down 8-of-15 after intermission, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Imhoff also made 8-of-9 at the free throw line.

Imhoff ended the third quarter and started the fourth with 3-point baskets and then Brittany Washington hit a medium-range jump that trimmed IWU's deficit to under double digits 55-46 for the first time since the first quarter. IWU's Carly Lange and Katie Key each missed 3-pointers that could have made it a two-possession game, and when Wyse broke a mini-scoring drought with a basket the Trojans would continue to hold onto a double-digit lead.

Washington added 16 points and just two other players scored for IWU. Post Nicole Ignasiak missed a seventh straight game for the 'Cats and for the first time her 15.6 points and 8.9 rebounds were really missed.

Josie Cobb, who recently scored her 1,000th point at Taylor, contributed eight points and played a solid floor game with four assists and just one turnover.

"You got to win the home games and give Indiana Wesleyan credit," Martinez said. "They were playing without their center (Ignasiak) and she's tough. We prepared as if she was going to play and that part of our problem with the slow start because we had to go to plan B and mentally we weren't ready for that.

"We played really great at Marian in the first half similar to what we (against IWU) except for the start when we got down 8-0. It was  just a simple defensive angles we weren't executing at first, but once they executed the angles Wesleyan had some frustration getting shots off."

IWU hosts St. Francis and Taylor visits Goshen in 1 p.m. league games Saturday.