ANGOLA, IND. -- The No. 9 nationally-ranked Trine University women's basketball team led by four points at the half against Defiance College, but pulled away in the second half to come away with a 94-78 win in the season and home opener at Hershey Hall.
The Thunder were led by a 29-point effort by preseason All-American junior Brandi Dawson (Garrett, Ind./Garrett) on 10-of-16 shooting (62.5 percent) with nine points coming at the free-throw line (nine-of-14 overall). She also grabbed a game-tying high eight rebounds.
Three other players scored in double figures for Trine with junior Cassidy Williams (Archbold, Ohio/Archbold) scoring 13 points, followed by freshman Camille Lira (Murrieta, Calif./Rosary Academy) with 11 points and junior Montana Martin (Columbia City, Ind./Churubusco) adding 10 points. In addition to her 11 points, Lira tied Dawson with a game-best eight boards and had a team-leading four assists.
The two teams played a competitive first quarter with five ties and three lead changes. Trine (1-0) led by as many as three points on multiple occasions with the last one being a 12-9 edge at the 4:40 mark following a pair of free-throws by junior Shelby Oldham (Greenfield, Ind./Greenfield Central). Defiance (0-1) came back to even the game at 15-15 and ended the period with a 12-6 run to lead, 27-21, after the first 10 minutes.
The Yellow Jackets continued the run to start the second quarter with a jumper to post their largest lead of the game of eight points, 29-21. The Thunder fought back by outscoring DC, 16-8, and evened the score at 37-37 on a bucket by Dawson with just under three minutes to go in the half. The teams then continued the back-and-forth pace the rest of the way with the half ending on a key play by Lira who scored the final four points that came on free-throw attempt on a possible three-point play that was missed, but she followed her own shot to get the rebound and layed the ball in the basket as time expired to give the Thunder a 47-43 lead at the intermission.
Trine never trailed in the second half which began with another jumper by Dawson to put the Thunder up by six points, 49-43. The Yellow Jackets rallied again and got to within a point, 54-53, following one of the team's 10 triples on the night, with 6:07 left in the third quarter. A Dawson jumper, followed by a pair of free-throws, sparked a 9-2 scoring run that ended in a tre by Williams to extend the lead back to eight points, 63-55, at the 4:18 mark. But Defiance would not go away and later narrowed the gap to two points, 63-61, before Trine took over the game with an ensuing 16-0 run that carried over into the fourth quarter.
Leading by eight points to begin the final 10 minutes, 69-61, Lira opened the final period with a triple en route to the Thunder boasting a 79-61 advantage with 7:06 to play. Defiance never threatened the Trine lead the remainder of the contest as the Thunder went on to lead by as many as 20 points several times, including a 97-74 margin after a layup by senior Lucy Sare (Charlotte, Mich./Charlotte) with under a minute to go. The Yellow Jackets tallied the final four points to end the contest, but Trine already had the game well in hand and went on to the 94-78 victory.
The two teams shot well from the field with Defiance shooting 46.7 percent (28-of-60) overall and Trine shooting 57.4 percent (31-of-54). Both squads shot equally impressive percentages from deep as the Jackets went 10-of-18 (55.6 percent) and the Thunder four-of-eight (50.0 percent). The teams combined for 63 free-throw attempts with Trine taking a 28-of-43 (65.1 percent) advantage to Defiance's 12-of-20 attempts (60.0 percent).
Trine will next travel to Granville, Ohio to play a pair of games at Dension University beginning with a neutral site matchup against Kenyon (Ohio) College on Saturday, Nov. 18. The game is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.