Lisa Strack scored six points in the final two minutes, and the AU women’s basketball team used a late 10-0 run to defeat the upset-minded Holy Cross Crusaders 70-61 on Saturday at Bender Arena.
Strack totaled 17 points on 6-10 shooting from the field, while Michelle Kirk and Liz Leer scored 17 and 11 points respectively. Amy Lepley scored a season-high 15 points for the Crusaders, who challenged the Eagles all afternoon.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Strack said. “It’s always a tough game with Holy Cross and we’re always going to have a bull’s-eye on our back because we’re at the top of the league.”
AU opened up a 10-4 lead early in the game when Strack hit one of her game-high three triples on the afternoon. However, Holy Cross fought back to take a 16-15 lead when Meredith Ward converted a layup with 6:43 remaining in the first half.
Whenever the Eagles would try to go on a run Holy Cross would answer. First a Lepley three-pointer knotted the game at 19 apiece with 4:32 left in the half and then a Briana McFadden layup tied it at 21-21 with 2:44 to go. Liz Leer’s layup gave the Eagles a slim 23-21 advantage heading into the locker room.
A three-pointer by Ebony Edwards followed by a three from Strack put the Eagles in front 40-34 seven minutes into the second half. AU extended its lead to 10 when Strack converted a conventional three-point play to put the Eagles up 46-36.
With AU leading 52-44 and less than 10 minutes to play, the Crusaders made a key 6-0 run to get themselves back into the game. Later, Holy Cross guard Bethany O’Dell nailed a three-pointer to slice the AU lead to 58-57 with 3:20 remaining.
Strack would then hit two clutch shots to nail down the victory for the Eagles. First, she hit a jumper with just over two minutes to play to extend the lead to three. Then, after Lepley’s two free throws cut the margin to one, she hit a dagger three-pointer from the corner to start the 10-0 run that led to the 70-61 AU victory.
“She’s an athletic player who can finish around the basket and obviously stepped up and hit some big shots late in the game,” AU Head Coach Matt Corkery said of Strack.
The win improves AU to 18-8 on the year and 11-1 in the Patriot League, which puts them in a first-place tie with the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. The 11 conference wins are tied for the most in a single season in program history. The loss drops Holy Cross to 8-19 on the season and 4-8 in the league.
The Eagles will play their final regular season home game on Wednesday, Feb. 24 against Navy, before going on the road to take on the Lafayette Leopards on Saturday, Feb. 27.
“Next week is an exciting week because we have the chance to solidify a regular season co-championship,” Corkery said.