The AU Women’s Basketball team split its weekend, beating the Army Black Knights, 71-64, Friday night and losing to the Holy Cross Crusaders, 67-48, in a Sunday afternoon matinee at Bender Arena.
Holy Cross began both halves with 6-0 runs that kept the Eagles playing catch-up the entire game. AU fought back early and took a 16-15 lead on a Tara Williams layup with nine minutes left in the first half.
Holy Cross then ended the half on a 15-6 run to take an eight-point lead heading into the locker rooms.
“I thought we played fairly uninspired basketball today,” said head coach Melissa McFerrin. “We spotted them six points in the first half and six in the second, and we didn’t hit our free throws.”
The Eagles missed all eight of their free-throw attempts in the first half and shot 9 of 17 from the line overall.
AU senior guard Joanna Barnes, who scored 19 points on 8-of-17 shooting, led the team, while the most effective Eagles were forwards Jenyce Woodruff and Abby Lipskis. Woodruff grabbed 12 rebounds, and Lipskis scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds as she starts to find her role in the AU lineup.
“Abby and Jenyce did what we needed, but we just didn’t score effectively down low,” McFerrin said.
While the Eagles didn’t score down low, the Crusaders certainly did. Center Lisa Andrews, who is quickly making her case for Patriot League Player of the Year, scored 17 points and pulled down 13 boards. She dominated the beginning of both halves, scoring four of Holy Cross’ first six points of the game and the first six of the second half.
The Eagles found themselves behind and couldn’t respond well, never making a serious run in the second half.
“Once we got down, we didn’t have the mentality to come back,” McFerrin said. “[Holy Cross] is incredibly deep and we just couldn’t match them today.”
The loss followed Friday’s 71-64 overtime victory over Army, AU’s biggest win of the season. Barnes led AU with 22 points, including a stretch early in the second half in which she scored 11 points in five minutes to turn a two-point deficit into a six-point lead. The run included three three-pointers. Senior forward Chanel Hunt scored 12 points on only 4-of-18 shooting, but grabbed 13 rebounds, dished out four assists and had three steals.
The most valuable player for the Eagles may have been sophomore Tara Williams. Thrown into the starting lineup after point guard Tala Hadavi went down for the year, Williams had her second straight great game, scoring 11 points and playing a very controlled game.
“I came in just trying to get the defense to collapse and get good shots for my teammates,” Williams said.
Her biggest shot came from the free-throw line. With 16 seconds left in the second half, Williams toed the line with the Eagles losing by one. She missed the front end of the free throws, and McFerrin called a timeout. Williams then hit the second free throw, and the Eagles didn’t allow Army to get a shot off in the final 15 seconds.
“I knew she’d hit the second free throw, so we called the timeout to set our defense up and the girls did a great job stepping up in that last sequence,” said McFerrin.
In overtime, AU outscored the Black Knights, 10-3. Senior Kim Salem got the team started with a big three-point play to open the scoring. Barnes also hit a big three in the extra period.
Shavonne Holden scored 18 points for the Knights, and freshman Cara Enright scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, most of them coming early in the game.
The Eagles got a big contribution off the bench from junior center Abby Lipskis, who played her best game since transferring to AU, scoring seven points and pulling down eight boards in 22 minutes of action.
“The bench players have been getting my wrath recently, but they stepped up tonight,” McFerrin said. “We were able to give Abby the freedom to do what she does best and she came through.”
Sophomore Katie Hirschler went down before the game with a leg injury and was inactive, so McFerrin had to play a lot of zone defense to keep her team’s legs fresh. But late in the second half, she switched to woman-to-woman, which shut down Army’s offensive attack.
“We’re very comfortable playing our man-to-man, and we knew that when the game tightened up, we had to go to it,” McFerrin said.
The game may have given Eagles fans the first glimpse of what the team will look like next year, when Williams will largely be responsible for leading this team, along with a healthy Hadavi and Lipskis.
“This year’s great because it’s helping me become a leader,” Williams said. “I’ve got a big responsibility now, and we’re just doing what we’ve got to do to contend.”
AU now turns its attention to a weekend on the road, as it will play at Bucknell on Friday night and at Colgate on Sunday afternoon. If the Eagles don’t turn up their intensity, young players like freshmen Katie Hirschler and Natalie Walker may start seeing more time as the PL season grows old.
The Eagles sit at 2-3, three games behind league leaders like undefeated Holy Cross and Lehigh. The PL tournament this year will not be played in AU’s backyard, Upper Marlboro, Md., but rather at the home arena of the two highest seeds, so AU will likely have to go on the road come March.