The Cru led 7-6 early before O'Brien and the Knight took control of the first half on the way to a 35-20 halftime lead. UMHB shot a paltry 26 percent from the field in the first half and turned the ball over 15 times in the first 20 minutes.
The Cru heated up in the second half, opening the period with a 6-0 run and using a 22-7 streak to tie the game at 42 with 10:15 left to play. After a Cathy Reiter jumper, Samara Williams hit a three-pointer to give UMHB a 45-44 lead with 8:15 remaining. Wartburg took a 47-45 lead on O'Brien's three-pointer 11 seconds later, but the Cru used two free throws from Jovana Miles and Tori Tucker three-pointer to grab a 50-47 lead. The Knights went on an 8-0 run to take a five-point lead at 55-50. The Cru would battle back to within two points at 57-55, but Wartburg iced the game from the free-throw line from there.
"We really started to play together and get on the same page," said coach Lisa Curliss-Taylor. "Once we figured it out, we got back into the ball game. It was the little lull in the second half that hurt us."
O'Brien scored 29 points for Wartburg, 19 of the points in the first half. She added 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots. Bobbi Burrows contributed 12 points off the bench for the Knights.
"We knew she was a lefty (O'Brien)," said Curliss-Taylor. "We are in the lane and kept letting her get to the left and she got us. We practiced it, but we didn't apply it on the floor."
Tori Tucker had a career-high 15 points for the Cru, while Macy Moore and Taylor Tucker added 13 points each. Taylor Tucker also had 12 rebounds. The Cru shot 33 percent from the field and went 8-21 from three-point range in the game. UMHB out rebounded the Knights 49-39 and were very active on the offensive glass, grabbing 22 offensive rebounds.
"The balanced scoring is improving," said Curliss-Taylor. "It's getting there. We need to improve upon it percentage wise. It's going to take some extra time in the gym. It's a process."
The Cru women have 15 days off before playing another game. UMHB will return to action with at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall on Jan. 3.