Victory over Langston keeps JBU’s win streak alive

Photo courtesy of John Brown University Sports Information John Brown University's Natalie Smith dribbles the ball up the court in a road game on Jan. 27 against Langston University in Langston, Okla.
Photo courtesy of John Brown University Sports Information John Brown University's Natalie Smith dribbles the ball up the court in a road game on Jan. 27 against Langston University in Langston, Okla.

LANGSTON, Okla. -- The Golden Eagles held Langston (Okla.) to its worst offensive output of the season as the No. 21 John Brown University women's basketball team used free throws to avoid a huge comeback to complete a 50-44 win Jan. 27.

JBU (17-3, 14-0 Sooner Athletic) held a 13-point lead after three quarters, 40-27, and had suffocated the Lion (15-4, 10-3) offense to a mere 22% shooting effort (10 of 45) through the first 30 minutes. But then Langston opened the fourth quarter with a run and came within a bucket.

Langston embarked on a 14-2 run over the first 6:51 of the fourth quarter as JBU shot 1 of 6 over the span, allowing the Lions to pull within 42-41.

Senior Natalie Smith then came up with her third three pointer of the game, and the Golden Eagle defense again rose to the challenge by allowing just three Lion points over the hosts' final six possessions. JBU hit 5 of 6 at the line in the final minute to halt the Langston comeback bid.

The win continues John Brown's program-best 15-game heater, and the Golden Eagles became the first squad in the conference to clinch a guaranteed appearance in the Sooner Athletic tournament.

The Lions were limited to season-lows in points (44) and shooting percentage (26%) as the Golden Eagles held the Lions to 18 points below their previous scoring low and 29 points below the Lions' season scoring average.

Langston's Hailey Jordan scored a game-high 15 points before fouling out, and Koreea Kirksey added nine points off the bench in the Lions' second loss in three games.

Smith led the Golden Eagle scoring effort with 14 points on three three pointers and 5 of 6 shooting from the line. Senior Tarrah Stephens added nine points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while senior Emily Sanders contributed eight points and six rebounds.

Senior Leah Anderson came off the bench to provide 14 minutes, hitting all three shots attempted from the field -- including one free throw -- and registering a pair of thefts.

John Brown will head out on its longest road trip of the conference season to take on Oklahoma Panhandle State and Wayland Baptist (Texas). The Golden Eagles will face the Aggies at 6 p.m.Thursday before taking on the Flying Queens in Plainview, Texas, on Saturday. Both games will air live on the SAC Sports Network.

JBU 78, Central Christian (Kan.) 43

SILOAM SPRINGS -- Thirteen of 14 players scored while head coach Jeff Soderquist emptied the bench as the John Brown University women's basketball team never trailed in a 78-43 season series-sweeping win over Central Christian (Kan.) at Bill George Arena on Jan. 25.

The Golden Eagles ran away with its 14th consecutive victory by piecing together a 26-6 lead after the first quarter and maintained a double-digit lead for the remainder of the night.

Senior Tarrah Stephens scored 10 points and became the second Golden Eagle in program history to cross the 2,000 career points threshold, joining Baily Cameron. Stephens is just 34 points away from breaking the program's all-time scoring record.

Senior Natalie Smith directed the John Brown offensive effort from the start, pouring in five three pointers in the first 10 minutes. Smith dished out three assists in the first quarter, allowing her to either score or assist on all 21 of JBU's game-opening points.

Smith finished the contest with 23 points, including a 6 of 7 effort from behind the arc, and passing out six assists, joining Stephens as the lone double-digit scorers. Freshman Briley Burns came off the bench to provide a career-high seven points on 3 of 5 shooting, and a trio of Golden Eagles, seniors Emily Sanders, Bella Irlenborn and Leah Anderson, each contributed six points apiece.

Stephens' seven rebounds paced the John Brown effort on the glass as the hosts enjoyed a 45-33 advantage. JBU turned 12 offensive caroms into 11 second-chance points and limited the Tigers to just two second-chance points despite 11 opportunities.

After the first-quarter romp and 56% shooting efficiency, the Golden Eagles used another lopsided quarter to place the game out of reach. A 20-7 scoring advantage in the second ballooned the overall margin to 33 before the half, 46-13.

Central Christian shot just 26% (15 of 58), marking John Brown's third-best defensive effort of the season. It was the eighth time this season the Golden Eagle defense held its opponent under 50 points, and JBU is 8-0 in those contests.

Olivia Bell drained four triples and led Central Christian with 16 points, while Kylee Jones added 10. Amanda Dotter's effort was rewarded with 11 rebounds, a game-high mark.

JBU 70, Oklahoma City 46

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Senior Bella Irlenborn scored a game-high 15 points and led a trio of Golden Eagles in double-figure scoring and the John Brown University women's basketball team protected the ball in the second half and used a 47% true shooting percentage to dispatch Oklahoma City, 70-46, at Abe Lemons Arena on Jan. 23.

JBU swept the season series with the Stars for just the second time ever.

On Nov. 28 in Siloam Springs, JBU took down Oklahoma City by the same score, 70-46.

Despite committing nine first-half turnovers, John Brown responded with just one miscue in the second half and shot 48% (15 of 31) from the field in the final 20 minutes, pulling away in the fourth quarter.

The visitors shot better than 40% inside and beyond the arc, finishing at 46% (28 of 61) overall and 8 of 19 from long range (42%). At the line, three different players hit a tandem of chances as the Golden Eagles converted 6 of 8 (75%).

The Stars could only score at a 35% clip (19 of 55) and a meager 21 % from three-point range (3 of 14).

Amaya Gordon and Jerzie Bryant each scored 15 for Oklahoma City, with Gordon earning a double-double with 10 boards.

Joining Irlenborn, who led John Brown in scoring for the first time this season, was senior Tarrah Stephens and her 14 points and eight rebounds. Stephens added four assists, a pair of steals and a block. Junior Emily Sanders couldn't miss, hitting all four chances from the field to add 10 points and three assists in the win.

Sanders took over the game early, scoring seven of JBU's 18 first-quarter points, allowing the visitors to enjoy a 10-point lead after the first stanza. Both teams scored 13 in the second and the Golden Eagles edged Oklahoma City by three points in the third before a 9 of 16 shooting blitz in the fourth quarter produced JBU's largest lead of the game -- 24 points and the difference in the final score.