January is wasting little time in serving up the DII women's basketball game of the season, so far. No. 3 Grand Valley State travels to No. 4 Ashland on Thursday, Jan. 9, in a huge Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference showdown that could have NCAA DII tournament implications.
The Eagles and Lakers are no strangers on the court. Grand Valley State ended Ashland's three-year reign atop the GLIAC by winning both matchups last season and taking both the South Division and regular-season crown. These teams are fueled by two of the best offenses in the nation, so there should be no shortage of fireworks Thursday night.
Let's take a look at what you need to know for this huge DII women's basketball battle.
Grand Valley State vs. Ashland by the numbers
This will for sure be a test for the Lakers' defense on the road. Grand Valley State is currently fifth in scoring defense, allowing a stingy 51.2 points per game, but will have its biggest challenge against the Eagles offense, second in DII women's basketball averaging 91.4 points per game. The Lakers are strong on offense too. They have the best scoring margin in the division, beating their opponents by 29.5 points per game.
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It's probably no surprise that these are two of the best shooting teams in DII. Ashland is second in the division at 51 percent and Grand Valley State isn't that far behind, successful 50.1 percent of the time. The key factor once again could come on the Lakers' defensive end, where Grand Valley State holds its opponents to a 31.7 percent field percentage, the third-lowest mark in DII.
Grand Valley State
|3 PT %||44.7||33.3|
Grand Valley State vs. Ashland: The key matchup
There is going to be quite the battle down low and whoever comes out on top could decide the game. The Lakers' 6-4 Cassidy Boensch is one of the premier centers in DII women's basketball, leading the position in scoring at 20.8 points per game. Opposite her is Ashland's tallest player. 6-2 forward Sara Loomis who leads the potent Ashland offense in both scoring (17.2 points per game) and rebounding (9.6 per game). Defensively, Boensch has the slight edge — at least statistically speaking — with forcing 24 turnovers and swatting shots away, her 49 blocks second in DII women's basketball.
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Of course, Ashland's Jodi Johnson is always one defenses have to maintain. Johnson is solid across the board (16.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.7 steals per game) and can cause havoc from the guard or forward position. Last year, when Grand Valley State won by 33 at home, the Lakers held both Johnson and Loomis to 10 points apiece. That will be the key once again.
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While the above matchups will be the key to victory, both of these teams are loaded with highly-skilled players. Both rosters are upperclassmen-heavy, so the starters have been playing with each other for some time. These two teams know each other extremely well.
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Guard Jenn DeBoer is putting together another solid season. She's averaging 11.9 points per game for the Lakers to go along with 5.3 rebounds per game and a team-high 73 assists. Senior forward Maddie Dailey — who broke out in a big way last season — continues to excel, averaging 15.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
For Ashland, Renee Stimpert is always one to keep your eye on. The senior guard dropped 20 points the last time out, breaking the 1,000-point mark for her career. That means the Eagles have three players — Johnson, Loomis, and Stimpert — that have scored 1,000 points in their career and all three are in the top 25 in scoring in program history. Sophomore Hallie Heidmann is having a breakout season, averaging 11.6 points per game and will certainly get some extra attention Thursday evening.