In a game characterized by streaks, Wesleyan and Hamilton renewed their rivalry by playing for only the fifth time in history and first time in 11 seasons as Hamilton, a long-time NESCAC member, has been added to the round-robin conference rotation in basketball for the first time. The result was a 72-52 Wesleyan victory Sun., Feb. 5 as the Cardinals mounted the final streak in the second half and never let it go in extending its lead to the final buzzer.
It was senior day at Wesleyan as Sam LaCroce '12 (#20, photo insert upper left), Eileen Gaffney '12 (#30, photo insert lower left) and Emily Lippe '12 (#24, main photo) were playing their final regular-season home game. They responded by having outstanding games. LaCroce led all scorers with 18 points while all three had seven rebounds to pace the Cardinals. Lippe added 16 points, six assists and three steals. Gaffney had 15 points.
Wesleyan pushed out to a 40-28 lead with a 13-6 run in the opening 3:12 of the second half. That matched Wesleyan's start to the game as Wesleyan led 13-6 at the 15:26 mark of the first period. Hamilton responded in both instances with runs of its own, narrowing the second-half deficit to 44-41 with 12:50 left. In the first half, the visitors rallied their way to a 19-16 edge with a 13-3 stretch, but Wesleyan scored the next 11 points for a 27-19 lead before settling for a 27-22 halftime margin. After Hamilton whittled the second-half gap down to three, Wesleyan went on a decisive 10-0 run for a 54-41 lead at the 8:28 mark and the difference was never under double digits the rest of the way. Four Cardinals contributed to the 10-0 burst.
Wesleyan and Hamilton last met in November, 2000 with Hamilton winning for the first time. Wesleyan had won the previous three games played the three seasons prior as the teams met each season from 1997-2001.
The Cardinals closed out the regular NESCAC season in Maine, facing Bowdoin Fri., Feb. 10, and Colby on Sat., Feb. 11. The Bowdoin game went to the Polar Bears, 70-56, putting a damper on the Cardinals' hopes of hosting a first-round NESCAC tournament game. When the Cardinals fell to Colby as well, 66-48, Wesleyan dropped to #6 in the NESCAC seeding. As a result, the Cardinals will make a return trip to Brunswick, Me. for a rematch with Bowdoin, seeded #3, Sat., Feb. 18 in the first round of the NESCAC Championship. Before that, however, the squad close out the regular season at SUNY Purchase Wed., Feb. 15. There Wesleyan played a brilliant final 16:41 of the game in rolling to a 70-38 victory.
At Bowdoin, the first half was characterized by five distinct runs. Wesleyan owned the first, 11-2, only to be caught and passed by Bowdoin, 13-11, behind an 11-0 Polar Bear burst. Wesleyan then scored the next seven points for an 18-13 lead before Bowdoin responded with a 12-2 spurt and a 25-20 advantage. The Cardinals netted the last five points of the period for a 25-25 deadlock at intermission.
The game stayed tight for the opening five minutes of the second half with Wesleyan holding its last lead, 36-35, with 15:31 to go. Bowdoin took the lead for good, 37-36, at 15:05, igniting a 9-0 Polar Bear run and a 44-36 edge. Wesleyan got no closer than five the rest of the way as Bowdoin methodically pulled away down the stretch.
Gaffney had another solid effort with 16 points and 10 rebounds while KellyAnn Rooney '14 netted a team-high 17 points for the Cardinals.
Colby jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the NESCAC regular-season finale and never let up, eventually extending the margin to 25-5 with 7:34 to go in the first half and held a titanic 38-14 lead at halftime. The final score was as close as the Cardinals got in the second half as the gap stayed in the 20s most of the period. Gaffney led the team in both points and rebounds with 15 and eight, respectively. The Cardinals finished 5-5 in NESCAC play.
In the first-ever game vs. Purchase, Wesleyan held a tenuous 34-29 lead early in the second half before uing the final 16:41 to outscore its host 36-9 to run away for a 32-point win. The Cardinals shot a brisk 50 percent from the field over the last 20 minutes while holding Purchase tp 25-percent shooting. Gaffney again led the way with 13 points and nine caroms. LaCroce added 11 points and Klaes picked up 10. The Cardinals totally dominated the boards with a 36-15 margin and forced 24 turnovers while making just 10 miscues.
In the NESCAC tournament matchup at Bowdoin, again the Cardinals hung with their host through the first 10 minutes, leading by as many as five, 13-8, when LaCroce hit an early jumper. But Bowdoin grabbed the lead for good with 10:52 to go, 14-13, and never looked back en route to a 33-20 halftime edge. The Cardinals got no closer than the halftime gap in the second period and came up a 53-37 loser. Gaffney was tops on the team in both points and rebounds with nine and seven, respectively. She led in both departments for the season as well with 11.5 PPG and 7.4 RPG. Wesleyan ended the solid year with a 14-9 overall accounting.