Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, June 22, 2017

Women’s basketball cruises to victory over Lafayette

The Eagles blitz Lafayette in the first quarter en route to 75-45 win

Women’s basketball cruises to victory over Lafayette

The AU women’s basketball team halted its two-game losing streak with a strong, balanced performance Wednesday night at Bender Arena. The Eagles received scoring contributions from nine different players and breezed past the Lafayette Leopards 75-45.

On the heels of two subpar defensive performances, where the Eagles allowed Boston University and Army West Point to each shoot field goal percentages above 45 percent, AU’s defense swarmed Lafayette and limited the Leopards to 26.8 percent shooting from the field. The Eagles (12-13, 9-5 Patriot League) stifled the Leopards (2-24, 1-13 PL), opening up a 16-point lead by the end of the first quarter.

AU’s offensive was aggressive from the onset, looking to attack the paint despite the absence of sophomore forward Cecily Carl, the team’s third-leading scorer. The Eagles worked the ball inside to senior forward Lauren Crisler and junior Michael Harris and ran their early offense through the post. Crisler finished the first quarter with nine points and three rebounds.

“I thought we executed pretty well for 40 minutes on the offensive end and the defensive end,” head coach Megan Gebbia said. “I thought Emily did an outstanding job of attacking off ball screens today and I think that really made a difference in the outcome.”

The success of AU’s frontcourt play afforded the Eagles guards more space on the perimeter throughout the game. Senior guard Emily Kinneston capitalized on the space in a myriad of ways, either driving to the basket for layups or working herself free for mid-range jump shots. Kinneston finished with with her second consecutive game above the 20-point plateau, recording 24 points, five rebounds and four assists.

The Eagles were also effective in their rebounding, an area in which they have struggled for the majority of the season. AU outrebounded the Leopards 48-29 and recorded 14 offensive rebounds.

“Offensive rebounds for us is the number that stands out the most,” Gebbia said. “We’ve struggled in that area and we talked about [how] our number one key to victory today was getting all over the boards.”

The Eagles opened up a 20-point lead by midway through the second quarter, and Lafayette was unable to reach double-digit points until five minutes before halftime. The large lead afforded Gebbia the chance to give her bench players extended minutes. Junior forward Io Chaney, seeing extended minutes due to the large lead, scored a career-high nine points.

Gebbia stressed the importance of her team’s second half performance, maintaining the lead and not allowing Lafayette to work back into the game.

“In prior games, we’ve given up that lead, so I think they [the players] were well aware of the intensity that they needed to come out with in the third quarter and they did,” Gebbia said. “I knew that [if] you let a team back in the game, then the momentum changes. They made sure that didn’t happen this time.”

The win for the Eagles comes at a crucial time in the season, with only three games remaining. AU currently sits in a tie for fourth place in the Patriot League, a game behind Army in the loss column. Boston University is level with AU at 9-5 in the league, with the Eagles holding a tie-breaker over the Terriers. The top four seeds at the end of the regular season earn byes until the quarterfinal round of the Patriot League Tournament and guarantee themselves at least one postseason home game.

The Eagles return to the court in Worcester, Massachusetts on Saturday at 1:05 pm against Holy Cross before playing their final two home games at Bender Arena.

vsalandro@theeagleonline.com