COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Ursinus College women's basketball team won its first playoff game in 12 years as the Bears routed Muhlenberg, 57-38, in the Centennial Conference opening round game at Helfferich Hall.
Ursinus advanced to face top seed and tournament host Gettysburg in the first semifinal on Friday night at 6 p.m. The Bears dominated from start to finish against a Mules side that has historically controlled the all-time series and the conference. Ursinus has won back-to-back matchups for the first time since 2005; last week the Bears snapped their 21-game drought to secure a home playoff game.
The fourth-seeded Bears (17-9) never trailed in front of a raucous crowd. Ursinus' stingy defense suffocated the Mules, holding them to their lowest offensive output of the season on just under 25-percent shooting to go with 18 turnovers. Muhlenberg scored single digit totals in each of the first three quarters.
Junior Lydia Konstanzer displayed her elite presence in the post on her way to scoring 19 points and gathering in 16 rebounds. In the process she picked up her 34th double-double of her career, which passed Lindsey Teuber '13 for the top mark in program history. A force on the defensive end as well, Konstanzer added five blocks and four steals to her totals.
Konstanzer took matters into her own hands in the first half, scoring 12 first-half points and hauling in nine boards to give the Bears a big lift despite shaky shooting and turnovers.
In the opening quarter, the flustered Mules (15-11) were held to just six points on 3-of-16 shooting, all of those coming from Sara Dilly. Dilly shot 3-of-4 while the rest of the Mules went 0-of-12.
Dilly finished the night with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, while Tara Szawaluk scored nine points on 4-of-10 from the field. The rest of the Mules combined for an icy 6-of-42 (14.3%) from the field.
Konstanzer nailed a baseline jumper from sophomore Maya Kornfeld's dish to open the scoring. Sophomore Marisa Morano dribbled baseline and under the hoop before kicking to freshman Gabby Downs, who buried a 3-pointer to go up 10-4 halfway through the first quarter. Downs joined Konstanzer in double figures with 13 points.
Beautiful ball movement in the half-court allowed Morano to get enough room to drain a 3 from the left wing as the shot clock was winding down to push lead to 13-4. The Bears closed the quarter up 15-6.
Konstanzer opened the second-quarter scoring, allowing the Bears to go up 17-6. Muhlenberg got off the scoreless streak when Mikaela McGarvey made a trey at the 6:53 mark, breaking a five-minute scoring drought.
Relentless effort by Konstanzer to gather in her own miss increased the lead to 26-13 with over a minute to go in the half. She added another score to give the Bears a 28-15 lead at intermission
Ursinus expanded its lead in the third quarter. Konstanzer got a tough and-one basket to go and drained a short jumper in one fluid motion when receiving the inbounds triggered by Kornfeld. Just like that the Bears were up 37-18.
To double up the Mules 40-20, Downs splashed a long left-wing triple with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter. Kornfeld made a pair of free throws to make it 42-20, the largest lead of the night.
The Bears shot 38-percent for the game, hitting just 4-of-18 (22.%) from 3-point range. However, Ursinus owned the free throw column, attempting 24 freebies to the Mules' eight. The Bears went 15-of-24 (62.5%) from the stripe.
Muhlenberg shot 15-of-61 (24.6%) overall and 3-of-18 (16.7%) from deep. The Mules outgained the Bears by a slim 42-39 margin on the glass.
After improving to 5-0 all-time in CC home playoff games, Ursinus earned a third crack at Gettysburg, which had a pair of 12-point wins over the Bears during the regular season.