Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University women's basketball squad batted St. Joseph's (Ind.) to the wire in a regional contest on Saturday (Dec. 31) at FSU's Jim Wink Arena, but came out on the short end of a thrilling 67-65 decision.
The visiting Pumas won the non-league matchup of regional schools in the New Year's Eve contest to improve to 7-3 overall this season. FSU dropped to 6-4 on the year after both teams had entered the game with identical records.
St. Joseph's took a four-point lead on a made free throw with 12 seconds left. FSU quickly pushed the ball the length of the floor, but a layup by sophomore guard Sarah DeShone (Elkhart, Ind./Jimtown) rimmed out. Soon after, SJC's Tatiana Ortiz was fouled but missed both free throw attempts.
Ferris State moved the ball to the frontcourt where senior guard Tricia Principe (Kalamazoo/Mattawan) was fouled and awarded three free throws. She made the first two and intentially missed the third with less than a second to play, but the Bulldogs were not able to tip in the miss to tie the game.
FSU led by as many as four points only five minutes into the game before the Pumas grabbed a five-point halftime lead at 33-28. They led throughout the second half and the lead grew to as many as 10 points with 14 minutes to go, but the Bulldogs battled back and cut the margin to a single point with three minutes to play.
However, St. Joseph's responded by scoring the next four points to build a 66-61 edge with 1:56 remaining. Ferris cut the margin to three points on a made basket with 1:15 to play and had a chance to tie it up with less than 20 seconds to go when a three-pointer from DeShone came up short.
The Pumas forced 19 Bulldog turnovers and made 10-of-24 (41.7%) three's in the contest to earn the win. They were limited to only 32.3% (21-65) shooting from the floor overall, including only nine-of-32 (28.1%) in the final half.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs converted 22-of-59 (37.3%) field goal tries, but were only three-of-15 (20%) beyond the three-point stripe. FSU finished 18-of-23 (78.3%) at the free throw line in comparison to SJC's 15-of-20 (75%) effort.
Principe paced the Bulldogs with 18 points in the contest and added three assists to go with an 11-of-12 showing at the line. Freshman Christina Branch (Grand Rapids/West Michigan Lutheran) had her best game as a Bulldog with 16 points and a game-high 17 rebounds in addition to two blocked shots. She converted seven-of-nine field goal attempts. DeShone also reached double-digits with 16 points, three assists and two steals in the game.
On the opposite side, Britney Cruse totaled a game-high 20 points for St. Joseph's while Ortiz chipped in with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Breanna Birmingham tallied 10 points.
The Bulldogs owned a significant 50-36 rebound edge and had 18 offensive boards. Both teams finished with 15 second chance points as the Pumas grabbed 14 rebounds of their own at the offensive end.
Ferris State's 19 turnovers resulted in 12 steals for St. Joseph's and led to a 17-13 edge for the Pumas in points off miscues as they had only 11 turnovers of their own. FSU posted seven blocked shots and seven assists with the Pumas managing eight helpers and two blocks.
While the Pumas' bench outscored the Bulldog reserves by a 22-11 count, Ferris State did maintain a 32-16 edge in points scored inside the paint.
The loss was the second in as many days against a Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) opponent for FSU, which fell to Indianapolis by a 65-55 score on Friday (Dec. 30) at Wink Arena. St. Joseph's also tied up the all-time series between the two teams with its third victory over the Bulldogs in six tries.
The Bulldogs resume Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) play on Thursday, Jan. 5, at Lake Superior State. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. (ET) in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. FSU currently holds first place in the GLIAC North Division standings with a 4-1 league record.