SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Lewis buckled down on defense in the second half to defeat the Missouri-St. Louis 69-64 on Friday to advance in the NCAA Midwest Regional tournament at Drury O'Reilly Family Event Center.
The Flyers, advancing to the semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2006-07 postseason, improve to 23-5 on the season while the Tritons fall to 21-8 for the year.
"I am really proud of the way we came out in the second half in a zone defense, which isn't something we are known to do," Lewis head coach Lisa Carlsen said. "We were able to slow UMSL down and take them out of the rhythm."
Lewis junior forward Jess Reinhart paced the Flyer offense with 22 points and 19 rebounds while redshirt sophomore guard Jamie Johnson scored 12 of her 19 points in the second half, including two 3-pointers. Sophomore forward Mariyah Brawner-Henley chipped in 10 points and seven boards while junior guard Nikki Nellen tallied 10 points.
Down 33-27 at the half, the Flyers went to a zone defense in the second half to disrupt the Triton's offense. The Flyers opened the half on a 15-10 run to get within one at 43-42 at the 14:02 mark. Reinhart paced the run with eight points, while Nellen hit a 3-pointer and Brawner-Henley and Kristin Itschner chipped in a bucket each.
The Flyers kept the pressure on the Tritons, as Johnson drew the foul then hit two free throws to give Lewis a 54-53 lead at the 5:56 mark. With a grip on the lead for the Flyers, Johnson was 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the last 1:30 of the contest.
Lewis heated up in the second half, shooting 57.7 percent (15 of 26) from the field, after only hitting 9 of 29 (31.0 percent) shots in the opening half. UMSL won the battle on the boards 40-29 while Lewis outscored the Tritons in the paint 32-26.
Devonna Smith's 23 points and 11 rebounds led the Triton's offense, while Alyssa Like chipped in 12 points. UMSL's Alexis Lawrence scored 11 points and dished out six assists.
"Hopefully, the team got a bit of the jitters out of in this game, as there were times we played tentative," Carlsen said. "To get this one under our belts and advance, I think we will be better in the second round."