Balanced Attack Carries Cards Past Suffolk, 79-47, Before Ending Season vs. Powerhouses Colby & Bowdoin - Cardinals are Top-25 Academic Squad
Using a pair of bursts in the first half to forge a 19-point lead with 7:05 remaining in the period, Wesleyan pushed out to a 28-point halftime lead and never looked back in cruising to a 79-47 victory over visiting Suffolk Tues., Feb. 8. The outcome snapped eight-game win streak for the Rams, miuch to the Cardinals credit. Wesleyan closed out the season with a NESCAC weekend Fri., Feb. 11, hosting Colby, then playing Bowdoin in the season-finale Sat., Feb. 12.
Following the season, Wesleyan discovered that its outstanding 3.429 team GPA for the year ranked the Cardinals 25th nationally in Division III, tops among NESCAC squads and second in New England behind third-ranked MIT, as compiled by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).
Wesleyan never trailed against Suffolk, getting off to a 7-2 start in the opening 1:12, but Suffolk narrowed the gap to 12-11 with 15 minutes left in the first half. Wesleyan then went on a 10-0 run for a 22-11 margin with 12:24 to go. A three-pointer by Erin Gold '11 (#25, second from left in photo) and a traditional three-point play by Kendra Harris '13 triggered the burst. With the score 29-18, the Cardinals added an 8-0 spurt to make it a 37-18 count, and a 16-7 finish to the period gave Wesleyan a whopping 53-25 intermission lead. The Cardinals hit nearly 59 percent from the field including 6-for-15 accuracy from behind the arc. While Suffolk his nearly 41 percent from the field and 2-of-3 three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes, the Rams could not overcome Wesleyan’s 23-8 domination on the boards.
A 7-3 start to the second half got the Rams as close as 24 points, 56-32, but that was as narrow as the margin got over the final 20 minutes and Wesleyan, which leads the overall series vs. Suffolk, 4-2, held as much as a 37-point differential (75-38) in the closing five minutes.
Leading the way for Wesleyan with 14 points was Eileen Gaffney '12 (#30, second from right in photo) while Sam LaCroce '12 (#20, third from left in photo) and Gold each contributed 13 points. Emily Lippe '12 (#24, far left in photo) came off the bench to grab a game-high 10 rebounds. Wesleyan racked up 22 assists on its 29 baskets, seven of them from Gold.
Against Colby, a 18-1 first-half run helped the Mules assume a 26-9 lead with six minutes to go in the period. Colby then withstood one stern test from Wesleyan in the second half, and pulled away for a comfortable 67-49 win. With the victory, Colby secured a home game for the first round of the upcoming NESCAC tournament with its 6-2 conference mark.
Tied with Wesleyan, 8-8, seven minutes into the contest, Colby scored 18 of the next 19 points over a span of 7:15 for its 17-point lead. Six different Mules scored during the run. Colby held its largest of the first half, 35-17, with 1:46 to go but the Cardinals scored the final seven points of the period to trim the halftime margin to 11, 35-24.
Wesleyan, behind six points from LaCroce, who finished as the only Cardinal in double-digits with 10 points, narrowed the gap to just six, 42-36, 4:50 into the second half. Colby responded with another burst, this time 16-2, to produce the game’s largest advantage at 20 points, 58-38, with 6:49 left. Wesleyan got no closer than 13 down the stretch.
Colby leads the all-time series vs. Wesleyan, 15-12, but snapped a seven-game skid against the Cardinals last year with a victory in Waterville, Me.
Bowdon shook off an upstart Wesleyan early in the second half, outscoring its host by 28 over the final 20 minutes, to erase all trace of a 13-point first-half deficit and lock up the third seed in the upcoming NESCAC tournament with a 78-51 regular-season-ending win. Bowdoin tied Williams with a 6-3 conference record but got the third seed by virtue of its head-to-head win over the Ephs. Amherst is the top seed while Colby is #2.
Wesleyan, despite being eliminated from the post-season coming into the game, looked at its spoiler role with luster as the Cardinals raced out to a 19-6 advantage 6:35 into the contest. Gold had 11 of the 19 points and added five more in the period to net 16 in the opening 20 minutes. She was held scoreless in the second half as Bowdoin wasted little time taking momentum away from its host. Bowdoin trailed just 33-32 at halftime, aided by a 15-for-16 performance at the free-throw line.
When Bowdoin opened the second half on a 16-4 tear, the Polar Bears held a 48-37 lead with 15:00 to go and Wesleyan never cut the gap under double-figures. Bowdoin was ahead, 59-45, before using a 10-0 burst between the 7:32 mark and the 5:12 mark to push the lead to 69-45.
Joining Gold in double-digits for Wesleyan was Gaffney with 14. Gaffney led the team in scoring for the year with 9.8 PPG. Gold was second at 9.6 while also pacing the squad in three-pointers with 31 and free-throw percentage at 80.6. LaCroce was tops on the boards with 7.1 rebounds per game.
Bowdoin is now 26-4 all-time vs. Wesleyan, including 16 of the last 17. The only blemish was a 62-49 loss at home in 2008.
(Photo courtesy of SteveMcLaughlinPhotography.com)