Rolling to a 41-10 halftime advantage in its season opener vs. Newbury in the first round of the Endicott Tip-Off Tournament Fri., Nov. 19, the rout was on despite frequent substitutions and no Wesleyan starter logging more than 18 minutes. When the smoke cleared at game's end, the final score was 77-16, nearly equaling the team's margin of victory a year ago against St. Joseph (Conn.), when the Cardinals posted a 77-15 win over the Blue Jays. Wesleyan advanced to the championship game of the tournament at Endicott, facing the host Sat., Nov. 20. The Gulls demolished Lyndon St. in their first-round matchup, 84-20.
In the championship game, Wesleyan again had a stellar first half, holding Endicott to 19 percent shooting from the field while hitting 38.5 percent in forging a 35-20 lead. The lead had been as much as 21 (35-14) in the opening period. Endicott got as close as 53-50 with 7:42 remaining, but the Cardinals, behind the double-double (18 points, 13 rebounds) of Sam LaCroce '12 (#20, main photo), never gave up the lead en route to the 66-60 title win.
Wesleyan and Endicott had met just once before in history, that coming during one of the Cardinals' most successful seasons on record, a 22-5 campaign in 2004-05 when Wesleyan first qualified for the NCAA Division III tournament and reached the Sweet 16. That year, Wesleyan and Endicott met on January 2 in Florida with the Cardinals pulling out a 68-64 overtime victory.
Leading Wesleyan's balanced attack against Newbury with 12 points apiece were Erin Gold '11 (#25, photo insert left side) and Emily Lippe '12 (#24, photo insert right side). Gold was a team-best 5-for-7 from the field while Lippe was perfect at the line, going 6-for-6. Wesleyan finished the day a stellar 17-for-19 from the charity stripe but managed just 36.8 percent shooting from the floor and 25 percent accuracy from behind the arc. The Cardinals stood out defensively, limiting the Nighthawks to 21.2 percent shooting, no three-pointers, and outrebounded their rival, 49-27.
Lippe, with eight rebounds, and LaCroce were the closest to a double-double as LaCroce had 10 points and eight caroms. Twelve of the 14 Cardinals got at least 12 minutes of playing time and 13 got in on the scoring parade.
The Cardinals will open the home slate Tues., Dec. 30, talking on Western New England College.
(photos courtesy of SteveMcLaughlinPhotography.com)