Tested in opener

Blue Tigers win in overtime

Junior forward Vivian Essuon, (34), fights for the ball against the Rockhurst Hawks Friday evening, Nov. 12, 2010, at Jason Gymnasium. The score was tied, 50-50, at the end of the second half.

Junior forward Vivian Essuon, (34), fights for the ball against the Rockhurst Hawks Friday evening, Nov. 12, 2010, at Jason Gymnasium. The score was tied, 50-50, at the end of the second half. Photo by Kelley McCall.

If the beginning of the season is any indication, the Lincoln women’s basketball team had better be in shape.

The Blue Tigers played their regular-season opener Friday, eight days after their lone preseason game, and they’ve yet to play a regulation contest.

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Junior forward Vivian Essuon, (34), fights for the ball against the Rockhurst Hawks Friday evening, Nov. 12, 2010, at Jason Gymnasium. The score was tied, 50-50, at the end of the second half.

After beating Living the Dream in double overtime in an exhibition contest, the Blue Tigers played for real Friday night and edged Rockhurst 59-57 in overtime at Jason Gym.

“No, it’s not going to be a trend,” Lincoln coach Katie Vaughn said with a smile after the win in the LU Home Classic. “It’s either we’re losing in regulation or we’re win- ning.”

For most of the first half, it appeared the Blue Tigers would be losing in regulation. Lincoln was 0-of-7 from the field with four turnovers by the time the game reached the first media timeout.

Luckily, Lincoln’s defense had held down Rockhurst and the Blue Tigers trailed just 4-0.

But the Hawks started to pull away and eventually took their biggest lead at 22-10 with 7:24 left in the opening half.

“We wanted to press more than we did, but obviously, they’ve got to take the ball out of bounds to do that,” Vaughn said. “That didn’t happen a lot, so we never really got to do it. I wanted to press and control the tempo, but we didn’t make our shots, so we couldn’t get in our press.”

The Blue Tigers did get to within 34-27 at halftime despite shooting just 24 percent.

“I told the girls at halftime it was a game we were going to have to grind out,” Vaughn said. “We’ve been stressing defense, defense, defense, defense at practice. I’m almost happy we had a bad offensive night to prove that our defense has to be there every night.”

The defense was on display immediately after intermission, as the Blue Tigers put together a 10-2 spurt and took their first lead on a layup by Cherakie Barrett less than three minutes into the half.

Barrett was one of four different Blue Tigers to score in that spurt, as Bria Dillard had two baskets and Ashley Williams and Vivian Essuon had one each.

“We got some steals and we’ve got some girls who feed off that,” Vaughn said. “We got some steals and got some easy layups, but that was all because of our defense.”

The run eventually grew to 20-5 and Lincoln took its biggest lead at 47-39 on a layup by Essuon with 12:07 remaining.

However, Rockhurst immediately responded with a 9-0 run to get back into it.

The Blue Tigers scored just three points in the final 12 minutes and Rockhurst forced overtime on a layup with :01.4 remaining in regulation.

Lincoln scored the first four points of the extra frame and controlled the game the rest of the way.

Barrett was the only player in the game to reach double figures, as she scored 14 points, and she also tied for game highs in steals (four) and assists (three).

“Cherakie stepped up,” Vaughn said. “She was solid for us, which we obviously needed.”

Lincoln ended up shooting just 20-of-63 (32 percent) for the game, but won the game thanks to a whopping 21 offensive rebounds. By contrast, the Blue Tigers had just 14 defensive rebounds. Essuon led the board work with 12 rebounds.

“Vivian had 11 offensive boards — she’s a monster down there,” Vaughn said. “They obviously keyed on her. They did a good job of boxing her out, pushing her out of the lane and being physical with her, but she still came up with eight points and 12 rebounds. That’s not a bad night.”

The Blue Tigers will continue play in the Classic at 4 p.m. today against Missouri-St. Louis, which steamrolled Harris-Stowe 86-55 in Friday’s first game.

“They’re big, they’re disciplined, they’re well-coached and they’re fundamental,” Vaughn said. “We can do some things to disrupt that, but their starters, nobody played over 20 minutes (Friday) and ours played 40-plus. We’re going to be a little more fatigued than they are and we’re going to have to find a way to battle through it. But they’re 19, 20 years old, they should be able to find a way to play back-toback games.”

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