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The Lakeland women's basketball team improved to 3-2 overall after capturing a win over Aurora University, 65-54 in the opening game of their Northern Athletics Conference schedule on Saturday, Dec. 2, on their home court.
After struggling offensively against Carroll College on Tuesday, shooting 21 percent as a team, the Muskies recovered against the Spartans to knock down 39 percent of their attempts.
"This game we gelled together and played well," said senior forward Jenna Boehm, who shot 11-15 from the floor to lead the team in scoring with 29 points. "Last game we were all on a different page, but today we came out and played really well together. I think we're starting to understand the way each person plays."
The Muskies came out of the gates strong to start off the game, shooting nearly 47 percent to build a 35-27 lead by halftime.
"Compared to what we did on Tuesday night (against Carroll) we were certainly a lot more productive," said head coach April Arvan. "Our shooting percentage in the first half definitely carried us. In the second half we got a little stagnant, but we got to the line more. The main thing was to make sure we rebounded really well, and without a doubt we rebounded fabulously so I'm glad we hit that goal."
Arvan's squad out-rebounded Aurora 50 to 34, led by senior forward Danielle Duranceau, who grabbed 12 boards. Duranceau also chipped in nine points for the near double-double.
Although the Spartans came out firing in the second half, rallying around a quick 6-2 run in the first few minutes, the Muskies were able to control the damage and hang tough against an aggressive Spartan press to secure the win.
"I know basketball is a game of runs and a good team like Aurora is going to have that," Arvan said. "But I wasn't too worried because we were doing a good job taking care of the ball."
The Muskies' defense was also a major factor in the game's outcome, as the squad was able to hold the Spartans to 28 percent shooting in the second half and contain their top scorer, Naomi Guise.
"We held her to 21 points, which is below her average," Arvan said of Guise. "We also held their other kids who average in double-digits below their averages."
Freshman guard Brittanie Paulus helped boost the defense, leading the team in steals with five, blocks with two, and also grabbed six boards. Fellow freshman guard Megan Chart was second on the team in scoring with 11 points, including shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from the line.
Lakeland's head coach was pleased with her team's performance overall, citing getting back to their strong points as a major contributor to their success against Aurora.
"We let Tuesday go and focused on our strengths," she said. "Our strengths are not our 3-point shooting. We need to work on getting the ball to the rim and getting it inside. If we play outside of our strengths we're going to struggle."
Capitalizing on those strengths was certainly beneficial for the Muskies' inside game, as they combined for 42 points.
"We played together more and passed well," Boehm said. "Against the zone, we did so much better getting it inside and driving. It opened things up on the inside with our guards being able to drive.
"The win also helped pick us up a lot. Everyone's excited, but tomorrow we have to go back to practice and get back at it."
The Muskies will continue their NAC schedule with the first of three conference road games, starting with Concordia University Chicago on Tuesday, Dec. 5, in River Forest, Ill. Game time is set for 7 p.m.