Michelle Kirk became the 12th women’s basketball player at AU to join the 1,000 point club, while the Eagles defeated the Lafayette University Leopards 53-31 Saturday at Bender Arena.
The win was behind a record-setting defensive effort as well as a balanced scoring attack.
With 1:54 remaining in the first half, Kirk hit a three-pointer to push her over the 1,000-point plateau. Although Kirk was held to nine points in the game, her second lowest total of the season, AU Head Coach Matt Corkery recognized the magnitude of the achievement for the junior forward.
“I think it’s a great accomplishment,” Corkery said. “I’m very happy for her and very excited for her. Her versatility really gives her a lot of opportunities to score.”
Kirk said she was happy about the accomplishment, but she was more pleased with her team’s 7-0 start in conference play.
The Eagles held Lafayette to 31 points, setting a record for the fewest points allowed in program history. After scoring 18 points in the first half, the Leopards only managed 13 in the second. Sophomore guard Ebony Edwards had three steals as AU forced 20 turnovers in the game.
Junior forward Liz Leer scored 15 points to lead all scorers in the victory. Lisa Strack, a sophomore guard, added eight points, while senior center Ohemaa Nyanin chipped in with eight points and 10 rebounds. Every AU player in the regular rotation scored at least six points. In the loss, Elizabeth Virgin paced Lafayette with 12 points.
“I noticed at the half that our attempts were pretty balanced out,” Corkery said. “Sometimes you just have to find different ways to score.”
The game was hotly contested in the first half, as the Eagles led 13-12 with 8:39 left and 17-16 three minutes later. AU gained some separation heading into the locker room, as an 11-2 run put the Eagles in front 28-18 at halftime.
Lafayette’s defense contained Kirk in the first half, limiting her to just four points on 1-4 shooting. This forced Leer, Nyanin and Strack to fill the void left by the Patriot League’s leading scorer. Leer led all first-half scorers with eight points, while Nyanin had six and Strack had five. LaKeisha Wright led the Leopards with six first half points.
In the opening half, AU shot 35 percent from the field on 10-28 shooting. The Eagles were 7-9 from the free throw line, but only hit one of nine first-half triples. Lafayette shot 38 percent from the field on 7-18 shooting, but had nine turnovers and shot under 50 percent from the line.
AU was in control throughout the second half, as the Eagles opened up a 38-23 lead with 11:25 remaining. The lead increased to 17 with 2:17 remaining and the Eagles cruised to their eighth consecutive victory.
During the game, the 14 offensive rebounds AU recorded allowed them to take 20 more shots than Lafayette.
AU will next travel to Bethlehem, Pa., for a key game this Saturday with the defending Patriot League champion Lehigh University Mountain Hawks. The Mountain Hawks are 6-1 in the league and 19-3 overall. Earlier in the year, the Eagles defeated Lehigh 69-65 in overtime.
“I think it’s an exciting opportunity for us to go on the road and play the defending Patriot League champion,” Corkery said. “It’s a road game and will obviously be a tough game.”
Saturday’s win improved the Eagles’ record to 14-7 overall and 7-0 in the conference. The loss dropped Lafayette to 4-17 on the season and 2-5 in the league.