Mount Union rallies back to advance
Purple Raiders battled back from double-digit deficit in win
ALLIANCE, Ohio -- Senior Amanda Rose and junior Rosa LaMattina fueled a furious second-half comeback for No. 6-ranked Mount Union, and the Purple Raiders defeated No. 25 Muhlenberg (Pa.) 61-55 in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament on Saturday night.
The victory for Mount Union (28-1) extended the school-record to 22 consecutive overall, and was the Purple Raiders' 25th consecutive at the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex.
Mount Union trailed by as many as 15 points on three occasions in the first half, the largest deficit in any game this season. But the Purple Raiders closed the game on a 24-4 run over the final 12:29, exciting a raucous crowd, and advancing to the round of 16 for the second time in three seasons.
"This was the greatest game I've ever witnessed at Mount Union. It was one to remember," said Purple Raiders coach Suzy Venet -- who played on a pair of semifinal teams at the school.
Those in attendance were credited by coach and players for fueling the comeback.
"Absolutely," said LaMattina. "If we were playing this game on the road or at a neutral site we would have stayed down."
Erin Laney's layup gave Muhlenberg (23-6) a 51-37 lead with 12:29 remaining in the game. LaMattina answered with a 3-pointer, a steal and a layup and another 3-pointer to make it 51-45 with 10:35 to go.
Meanwhile, the Raiders got outstanding defense from junior Tierney Allen and senior Erin Schmidt on Muhlenberg's Alexandra Chili. The All-American and Jostens Award finalist finished with 18 points, but was held scoreless in the final 13:49.
"We always say 'Will to Win' and the 'Strength to Survive,'" said Venet, "and Allen and Schmidt on defense personified that tonight."
Mount Union missed its first 10 shots of the game and trailed 13-0, but Rose scored 11 points after that to keep the Purple Raiders within striking distance.
"I was OK with our shot selection," said Venet. "We just kept telling the players, 'Don't panic. Keep your cool.' Then we got some stops on defense, we got rebounds, and we started making some shots."
Rose's layup with 3:11 remaining in the game tied the score at 55, then a series of missed shots and turnovers by both teams kept it that way until 1:02 left, when Allen was fouled. She missed the free throw, but alertly picked up the offensive rebound and converted the layup to give the Purple Raiders their first lead of the game, 57-55. Allen and senior Kori Wiedt added two free throws apiece to finish the scoring.
Over the final 12:29, Muhlenberg went 2-for-12 from the field and committed seven turnovers.
"At halftime, we recollected," said LaMattina, "and we talked about playing defense, getting pressure and getting our offense started off that. We started to do that and you could see them getting so tired. I knew when Tierney made that layup we were going to do it."