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Defense keys thrashing of Saints

Jamestown’s Maggie Seter drives against Ashford’s Jessica Mlachnik on Sunday at the Civic Center. (John M. Steiner / The Sun)

Already holding a 10-point lead midway through the first half, the University of Jamestown ratcheted up its defensive effort.

The Jimmies showed why they’re the third-ranked team in the NAIA, holding Ashford (Iowa) without a field goal over the final seven minutes, 51 seconds of the first half Sunday at the Civic Center.

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The run led to a 24-point halftime deficit and a 73-54 win for the Jimmies, who improved to 18-1 with their 15th straight victory.

“I think we’re starting to understand what we were supposed to buy into at the beginning of the year,” said junior Megan Pold, who had 11 points and eight rebounds. “That was the best first half we’ve played all year. We keep doing that, we’re gonna be a hard team to beat.”

The first half went so well, in fact, that Jamestown shot 55 percent (18-of-33), despite playing 13 players, 12 of which got into the scorebook. No player had more than seven points at halftime.

Ulland agreed with Pold’s assessment.

“That was probably the best first half we’ve played,” he said. “We didn’t make every shot, but we were taking good shots.”

Three-pointers from Paige Emmel, Morgan Mathison and Maggie Seter helped Jamestown to a 28-18 advantage with less than eight minutes to go.

But a jumper from Kadie Savage kick-started a half-ending 17-3 run. The Jimmies’ scoring during the run was capped with a three-point play by junior Megan Pold.

“We really buckled down and made them shoot out of their comfort zone,” Pold said. “We knew what we needed to accomplish and what we needed to do.”

The game proved to be even more proof of how well the Jimmies are playing. They beat Ashford 59-46 in early December, but had 45 points against the Saints in the first half.

“We tried to turn the tempo up against them,” Ulland said. “They’re methodical. They want to slow it down. The girls did a good job of speeding them up and forcing them into taking quick shots, which is good because then we can get out and run.”

Jordan Bridges joined Pold in double figures with 11 points. Senior Hannah Steele played the most of any player at 21 minutes. She had eight points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Ashford had the game’s top two scorers in Madison Wagner (17 points) and Elizabeth Nardi (14). They shot 41 percent in the second half, outscoring Jamestown 33-28.

Still, the Saints came up short because of the Jimmies’ stellar defensive effort in the first half. Jamestown hosts Mayville State on Wednesday to begin North Star Athletic Association play.

“The biggest thing is that we played team defense,” Ulland said of the win. “They’re not just worried about their job — they’re worried about our job.”

No. 3 University of Jamestown 73,

Ashford (Iowa) 54

Ashford: Madison Wagner 17, Elizabeth Nardi 14, Jessica Mlachnik 8, Briaunna Guthrie 5, Quinn Rear 3, Janell Anthony 3, Jennifer Forge 2, Sarah Vozel 2. Totals 19-50 10-15 54.

UJ: Jordan Bridges 11, Megan Pold 11, Hannah Steele 8, Jessica Buck 6, Maggie Seter 5, Chelsey Frydenlund 5, Paige Emmel 5, Arei Stokes 5, Kyra Dewald 4, Kadie Savage 4, Alexis Watts 4, Morgan Mathison 3, Carly Jensen 2. Totals 28-63 14-24 73.

Halftime score: UJ 45-21. 3-pointers: Ashford 6-11 (Wagner 3, Mlachnik, Guthrie, Rear), UJ 3-9 (Seter, Emmel, Mathison). Rebounds: Ashford 33 (Forge 8), UJ 42 (Pold 8, Steele 7). Assists: Ashford 15 (Forge 6), UJ 22 (Steele 9). Steals: Ashford 7 (Vozel 3), UJ 8 (Steele 2, Buck 2). Blocks: Ashford 3 (Nardi 2), UJ 4 (Bridges 2, Pold 2). Total fouls: Ashford 19, UJ 12. Fouled out: Ashford 2 (Nardi, Anthony). Turnovers: Ashford 19, UJ 11.

Records: Ashford 8-15, UJ 18-1.

Sun sportswriter Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or