The No. 2-ranked Simon Fraser University women's basketball team won its first NCAA national tournament game in program history on Saturday, defeating the seventh-ranked Northwest Nazarene Crusaders 68-57 in the opening round of the NCAA West regional.
"I thought we came out in the first half and moved the ball very well," said SFU head coach Bruce Langford in a press release. "We had good movement offensively, which got us a lot of open shots. When we do that we normally have a fair number of threes and shoot at a good percentage."
Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe led the Clan with her 62nd career double-double, scoring a game-high 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. She was dominant in the first half, scoring 18 points.
"Nayo did a good job of finishing inside, especially in the first half. I thought we did a good job of getting her the ball and that got us off to a good start," added Langford.
Raincock-Ekunwe was eight-for-11 from the field and seven-for-10 from the free-throw line.
"I just wanted to come with intensity and focus," said Raincock-Ekunwe. "The last couple of games my shooting percentage wasn't where I want it to be so that's something I came into the game focusing on. We've been inconsistent recently and I was proud of how the team came into this game."
Erin Chambers chipped in with 22 points, going a perfect four-for-four from the charity stripe and six-for-nine from beyond the arc.
Kristina Collins led SFU with five assists and tied for the team lead with Raincock-Ekunwe in steals, with three.
Chelsie Luke led the Crusaders with 22 points, while Megan Hingston had a double-double for NNU, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
In the opening 20 minutes of play, the Clan shot 45 per cent from the field, 54 per cent from three-point range.
SFU opened the scoring 1:32 into the game when Collins hit a three-pointer. The Clan set the tone early, opening on an 8-2 run to open up an early lead.
With 9:24 to play in the opening half, Kia Van Laare of New Westminster hit a three to open up the Clan's largest lead of the half at 15 points.
The Clan rode their strong shooting into the locker rooms with a 41-30 halftime lead.
SFU's lead got as high as 17, on three separate occasions in the second half.
NNU played strong in the late stages of the game, cutting the Clan lead to eight with 1:04 to play, but that was as close as the Crusaders would get as Katie Lowen and Chambers hit late free throws to seal the Clan's 11-point victory.
"NNU is a very gritty team. They're a team that constantly is finding ways to get momentum, then they live off of it. If they lose it, they don't quit as long as they have a chance to get it back," said Langford.
The win advances the Clan to Monday's regional semi-final game, which will be played at noon against the sixth-seeded Grand Canyon University Antelopes at Sam Carver Gymnasium in Bellingham.
Saturday's win was the first in a national tournament for the women's hoop program since leaving Canadian Interuniversity Sport after the 2009-10 season.
"We left the CIS three years ago and we got decimated, losing players that weren't supposed to graduate who lost eligibility in the move. Three kids stuck around (Raincock-Ekunwe, Collins and Carla Wyman) and we were basically a junior varsity team our first year in the NCAA. We knew we were going to take some beatings along the way, so it's kind of nice to be where we are now," said Langford.