On National Girls and Women in Sports Day, the AU women’s basketball team suffered its second straight single-digit loss when they fell to Lehigh University. The Patriot League foe distinguished themselves early on with superior three-point shooting preventing an Eagle comeback.
Lehigh converted nine of 22 attempts from beyond the arc, with six players making at least one three-point field goal. In contrast, AU scored on just two of their 13 three-point attempts. AU also put up nine more shots than Lehigh and scored four more field goals than the Mountain Hawks. The Eagles ultimately fell 61-52 after several failed comeback efforts.
“We do work on three’s in practice, I think it’s a confidence thing,” head coach Megan Gebbia said. “We were trying to get the ball inside today because we felt that their post defense was a little suspect, and we tried to take advantage of that, so we didn’t take that many three’s today. We’ll continue to shoot it.”
AU started the game with a high level of intensity and vigorous offense, attacking the paint and keeping the score close. Twenty of the Eagles’ 23 points came from mid-range jumpers and layups during the initial two quarters. After trailing by six with just over two minutes to go in the first half, sophomore guard Maria Liddane drained a three-point shot with a minute remaining to put AU within three. AU entered halftime trailing Lehigh 27-23.
The game began to slip away from the Eagles in the third quarter. Lehigh sophomore guard Quinci Mann opened the third quarter with a layup, and freshman guard Hailey Pascoe hit a three-pointer to put the Hawks up 34-23. AU took more than three minutes to notch a point in the third quarter. Freshman forward Cecily Carl finally ended the scoring drought for the Eagles when she hit a jump shot off an assist from Liddane. AU entered the fourth quarter down 47-33.
Following a challenging third quarter, the Eagles rose to the occasion in the final 10 minutes to come within three points of tying the game. Carl opened scoring in the first minute of the fourth on an assist from Liddane to reduce Lehigh's lead to 12, and senior Ari Booth made a jump shot shortly after to bring the Eagles within 10. After Lehigh missed two shots in a row, Booth and Carl struck again with two consecutive jumpers. The Eagles’ rally continued.
Lehigh then committed its tenth turnover of the game, and freshman forward Michaela Nieuwenhuizen stole the ball, dashed down the court and sunk an uncontested layup. Lehigh led by just five. The crowd of largely AU supporters started to come alive, stomping their feet on the stands to start a drum roll.
Another Booth jump shot cut the lead to three and prompted a Lehigh timeout. Lehigh then committed a five-second violation on an inbounds pass, turning over the ball to AU, and opening an opportunity for the Eagles to tie the game.
In the final five minutes, Lehigh held on. The Hawks scored seven unanswered points and got to the free throw line five times in less than five minutes. The Hawks shot 7-for-12 from the line in the fourth quarter, while AU went 0-for-1. After coming within three, the Eagles did not score until nearly four minutes later when Booth sank a jump shot with less than 90 seconds remaining in the game.
“You have to give them credit,” Gebbia said. “They made shots when they needed to make shots. We didn’t in the last five minutes, and that really hurt us.”
With five seconds left on the clock, freshman guard Kaitlyn Lewis drained the Eagles’ second three-point shot of the game, but AU still ended the game nine points behind the Mountain Hawks.
“We’ve been working on not turning the ball over, and I think we did a good job of that down the stretch today,” Carl said. “We just couldn’t finish. I think we did a good job of applying defensive pressure. Our offense just needs to come together.”
The Eagles will return to Bender Arena on Wednesday Feb. 10 when they take on Boston University and fight for their third home win of the season.
“We’re excited about playing BU because we lost a close game at their place,” Gebbia said. “I think these guys know that they can compete with them. That’s a big game for us because if we win that, we can get ourselves up in the Patriot League standings.”