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The Lakeland College women's basketball team slipped to 4-6 on the season as it fell to Millikin University, 79-51, in the second and final day of tournament play at the Cruzin Classic on Wednesday, Dec. 19, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The Muskies fell behind from the start, as the Big Blue kicked off the game with an 11-0 run before senior guard Peggy Keiper finally ended Lakeland's scoring drought with a made 3-pointer at the 15:21 mark. However, the Muskies continued to struggle on offense throughout the half, ending the period at a 41-21 disadvantage.
Millikin's strong offense continued to plague Lakeland throughout the second half, as the Big Blue shot 54 percent from the floor and knocked down 57 percent of their shots from long range for the contest. The Muskies were also unable to find a way to stop Millikin's All-American forward Lindsay Ippel, who finished with a game-high 29 points.
"They shot extremely well on both the inside and outside, and it's hard to defend that," said Lakeland head coach Teri Johnson. "But we had some moments of momentum in the second half, so that was good to see."
Some of that momentum came from junior guard Kasey Gussert and freshman guard Mary Dennewitz, who came off the bench to chip in 11 and nine points, respectively. Although the Muskies shot a disappointing 27.6 percent from the floor for the game, Gussert and Dennewitz helped the squad boost its 3-point percentage to 41.7 percent, as Gussert went 3-for-4 and Dennewitz knocked down two of her four attempts.
"Mary Dennewitz is playing very well for us off the bench, and Kasey Gussert came in today and played out of her mind," Johnson said.
Keiper led Lakeland's offense with 12 points, while Gussert finished with 11 points followed by Dennewitz with nine. Keiper and sophomores KC Blahnik and Kayla Moffatt each posted a team-high four rebounds apiece.
"I think the tournament gave us the opportunity to play some competitive teams that will help us out in NAC (Northern Athletics Conference) play," Johnson said of the experience with her team in Florida.
The Muskies will have yet another tough game when they return from Christmas break, as the squad will face undefeated Thomas More College (Ky.), ranked No. 7 in the nation by this week's Top 25 poll, on Monday, Dec. 31.
"That's going to be another tough game for us," Johnson said. "We'll have to re-group after Christmas and come back strong and ready to play. We have had a lot of tough games lately, but I just want us to be able to learn from our mistakes so we can get better in conference play."
Game time with Thomas More is set for 1 p.m. at Lakeland.