THE TURNING POINT: Ashland scored the game's first eight points and never trailed.
STAT OF THE GAME: Of the Eagles' 20 wins in 2016-17, 11 have been by 30 points or more.
NORTH CANTON – Prior to Thursday (Jan. 26) night, Ashland University's women's basketball team lost its previous two games at Walsh, and didn't look good offensively in either contest.
Senior guard Kelsey Peare hit a 3-point field goal on the first possession of Thursday's game – a portend of what would take place for all 40 minutes.
The No. 1-ranked Eagles defeated Walsh, 90-53, to improve to 20-0 overall and 12-0 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Ashland continues to inch toward the best start in program history (24-0 in the 2012-13 national championship season), and its magic number for clinching its sixth South title in seven seasons is down to five.
"Our defensive effort was really good," said Ashland head coach Robyn Fralick, now on a 51-2 start to her head coaching career, "and that was the biggest thing coming off our last game that we knew we needed to do better. And I thought we did that from the start of the game, both in our full-court and our half-court.
"It's a new season, and I thought they played hard."
The Cavaliers are 9-10, 5-7.
In the matchups in North Canton in both 2015 and 2016, the Eagles lost 64-50 and 69-58 – shooting less than 34 percent from the field and less than 16 percent from 3-point range in both games, and turning the ball over 24 and 18 times.
It didn't take long to see things would be different this time around.
Thanks to efficient offense and swarming defense, Ashland jumped out to leads of 10-2 and 21-8. At the end of the game's first 10 minutes, the Eagles led 27-10, thanks to a 12-for-18 showing from the field and 13 points off nine Cavalier turnovers.
Junior forward Laina Snyder scored 13 points in the opening quarter.
Walsh began the second period with an 8-2 spurt to cut its deficit to 29-18, but Ashland countered with eight straight points to get its lead to 19.
At the half, the Eagles boasted a 44-27 lead, and Snyder had 19 points. Ashland shot 64.5 percent from the field on offense, and forced 13 turnovers and kept Walsh to 1-of-10 from 3-point range on defense.
After the Cavaliers scored the third quarter's first three points, Ashland quickly turned around and scored nine straight for a 53-30 advantage, forcing Walsh into a timeout. In the third, the Eagles outscored the Cavs, 20-10, and kept Walsh to 3-of-19 shooting, and went on to victory from there.
Snyder ended with 23 points on 11-of-15 shooting, and added six rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. Freshman guard Jodi Johnson filled the stat sheet with 13 points, seven boards, three assists and three steals, junior forward Julie Worley added 12 points off the bench and Peare chipped in with 11 points and seven assists.
Both Peare and Worley, North Canton Hoover High School grads, came back home to help the Eagles to victory.
Brooklyn Wooten came off the Walsh pine to lead the Cavaliers with 11 points.
Ashland shot 62.5 percent from the field and was 5-of-10 from downtown, and the Eagle "D" kept the Cavaliers to 28.3 percent from the floor and 4-of-19 from the arc. AU turned 19 Walsh turnovers into 25 points.
"Our defense was definitely our focus. It's our focus every night," Fralick said. "I was really proud of the way we guarded as a unit for the whole game."
Ashland came into the day as one of four undefeated women's basketball teams in NCAA Division II, and was the only one to play on Thursday.
UP NEXT: Fan Fest at Kates Gymnasium on Saturday (Jan. 28) at 1 p.m. against Findlay (9-11, 3-9).