GRANVILLE, Ohio – Denison women's basketball closed out the regular season with a 60-54 victory over Ohio Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon at Livingston Gymnasium. The Big Red enter the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament as the No. 2 seed with an overall record of 17-8 while going 11-5 in conference play. They will host No. 7 seeded Kenyon College next Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m. in Granville.
Leading the game for more than 36 minutes of action, Denison built their advantage in the second quarter when they outscored the Bishops 17-11. Lauren Hofer posted six of her 16 points in the frame while Alison Schafer and Zyah Beal combined for nine points on seven shots to give the Big Red a 27-23 lead at the break.
Despite the Big Red opening the second half with six of the first eight points on buckets from Schafer, Hofer, and Shonta Lockett, Ohio Wesleyan fought back with the next six points from Claire Sterling and Leah Maniaci to trim the Bishop deficit to 33-30 with 5:56 to play in the third.
Over the next six minutes of action, the Big Red turned in a 9-3 scoring run, capped off by a three-pointer from Addie Buzas, as they took a nine-point lead into the final quarter, 42-33.
The Big Red led by as many as 12 in the fourth after Lily Morris connected from the perimeter with 9:15 to go, but OWU's Sterling responded with a three of her own to drop the DU lead back to nine, 45-36.
With Denison leading 51-43 with 4:38 remaining, the Bishops made their final push as Sterling tallied a triple with less than four minutes to play and Maniaci buried a bucket at the 2:59 mark, making it a three-point game, 51-48.
Following a Big Red timeout, Hofer turned a foul at the rim into two points at the charity stripe. After a block by Aliyah Hunter on OWU's next possession gave the ball back to DU, Denison capitalized on the other end with a layup from Lockett as the Big Red built a seven-point lead, 55-48, with 1:43 to play.
With 52 seconds remaining, Nicole Popovich finished at the rim as she trimmed the DU lead back to five, 57-52. After both sides called for timeouts and OWU fouled their way into the bonus, Schafer buried a pair at the free-throw line go back up by nine with 38 seconds to play.
After Beal tallied the second of her two free throws in the final 30 seconds, the Big Red held off the Bishops for the rest of the game and earned their fourth win in their last six games. The loss dropped Ohio Wesleyan to 13-12 and 8-8 in the NCAC.
Hofer's team-high 16 points came on 7-of-10 shooting while adding three rebounds. Schafer turned in a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, including seven assists. Buzas added seven points and seven boards off the bench while Beal followed with six points.
Maniaci scored a game-high 17 points on 3-fo-6 from three. Sterling followed with 14 points and two steals while Cierra Joiner recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Prior to Saturday's contest, the Denison women's basketball program recognized all 10 of their seniors for the time, dedication, and accomplishments that they have brought to the University during their four years. The 10 seniors include Addie Buzas, Lauren Hofer, Aliyah Hunter, Shonta Lockett, Sydney MacBlane, Lily Morris, Lauren Longbrake, Alison Schafer, Lauren Turner, and Kat Williams.
Denison will return to action next Tuesday, Feb. 25 when they host the No. 7 seed Kenyon College in the NCAC Tournament Quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. at Livingston Gymnasium.