Columbus, Ohio – The 17th-ranked Capital University Crusaders controlled #11 Ohio Northern University throughout the entire contest on Saturday afternoon, defeating the Polar Bears 58-45.
The top-2 squads in the Ohio Athletic Conference exchanged blows early in the first quarter until a Nina Napolitano (Akron, Ohio) 3-point jumper grabbed momentum for Capital (15-2, 8-2 OAC). Napolitano followed the three-ball with a jumper as the Crusaders added another pair of shots from Annika Wachtman (Upper Arlington, Ohio) and Kristen Thompson (Cincinnati, Ohio). The 9-0 run created a 17-7 lead for Capital at the end of the first quarter.
The Crusaders continued its aggressive play in the second half, scoring the first three baskets of the second quarter to gain its largest advantage of the game, 23-7. With 3:42 left to go, Colleen Fondessy (Fostoria, Ohio) hit a jumper that sparked a 6-0 run for Capital.
Ohio Northern (14-3, 9-1) answered with a 7-0 run of its own, capped off by a 3-pointer from senior guard Brook Espenschied.
Napolitano managed to get off a mid-ranged jumper with 4 ticks left on the clock to give Capital a 34-24 advantage, heading into halftime.
The Polar Bears managed to pull within seven until the Jenna Erwin (Springfield, Ohio) and Thompson accounted for four made free throws. Erwin followed her free throw shots with a 3-point jumper that took the fight out of Ohio Northern. The 3-pointer gave the Crusaders a 50-35 lead as it allowed them to use their defense to carry them to victory.
Napolitano and Thompson led all players with 15 points apiece. Thompson added eight rebounds and a pair of assists. Senior guard Simonne Gage (Dayton, Ohio) set up her teammates with some important shots in critical moments on her way to recording a game-high five assists.
Senior forward Karrissa Steffa led Ohio Northern in points (15) and rebounds (9). Carly Thomas and Angela Tensy each chipped in six points.
The Crusaders fast start was attributed to its first-half shooting totals as they went 16-for-28 (.571) from the field compared to the Polar Bears, who went 8-for-21 (.381). Capital made the most of its opportunities to correct missed shots with 14 2nd chance points.
Capital's defense forced Ohio Northern to finish 14-for-50 (.280) while going 3-for-14 (.214) from 3-point range.
The Polar Bears edged the Crusaders in rebounds (32-31) and turnovers (14-15).
The win helped Capital keep pace with Ohio Northern as it gets set to face Wilmington (6-11, 3-7) on the road on Wednesday, January 27. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.