Cards Control 2nd Half Behind Eileen Gaffney '12 Double-Double for NESCAC Win over Middlebury, 60-52

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Wesleyan battled back from an early 21-14 deficit to visiting Middlebury and took the lead for good just before halftime, 27-26, en route to a 60-52 NESCAC victory over the Panthers Sat., Jan. 23. It was the initial conference triumph for the Cards this season.

Getting the seventh double-double of the season from leading scorer and rebounder Eileen Gaffney '12 (#30, main photo), Wesleyan held a single-digit lead throughout the second half and pulled up by as many 10 in the closing moments. Gaffney connected for 17 points and grabbed 12 boards to lead all players in the contest. Two other Cardinals reached double-digits in the scoring department as Sam LaCroce '12 (#20, photo insert lower right) picked up 11 while Erin Gold '11 contributed 10. LaCroce also had nine rebounds to aid the Cardinals' cause.

After the Panthers built their early seven-point lead, Wesleyan crept back into the game and took the lead for good when Gaffney sank a pair of free throws with 1:19 left in the opening period, giving Wesleyan a 27-26 lead at the break. With Gaffney and Ali Newman '12 each hitting for four points in the opening 5:22 of the second half, the Cardinals opened up a 39-33 lead. Middlebury got no closer than four from that point, the last time at 52-48 with 2:53 to go. The Cardinals then scored six straight to extend the margin to a game-high 10 at 58-48 with 1:14 remaining.

While Middlebury holds a 13-10 edge in the overall series vs. Wesleyan, the Cardinals have captured nine of the last 10 meetings between the squads.

On Fri., Jan. 22, in a game during which neither team led by more than seven points, Wesleyan and Williams closed out their two-game series with the NESCAC meeting in Middletown. Like the first meeting 10 days earlier, the second battle also went the Ephs' way.

This time, Williams took the lead for good with 4:20 remaining on a three-pointer, 46-44. Another three-pointer with 2:26 showing on the clock gave the Ephs a 50-46 lead. Wesleyan came up empty on its final six possessions, going 0-for-4 from the field with three turnovers. Williams managed to tack on three free throws in the final 40 seconds for the seven-point victory margin, 53-46, the largest of the contest.

Wesleyan overcame an early 11-6 deficit for its first lead at 12-11. The Ephs scored five straight and maintained a small advantage into halftime, 24-22. Scoring the first two buckets of the second half, Williams had a 28-22 edge. Wesleyan responded by taking a 36-35 lead on a three-pointer by McKinley Tennant '11 (#10, left side of main photo). She finished the game with 11 points, one of two Cardinals to reach double-figures behind LaCroce, who had 14. A LaCroce basket and an Gaffney free throw gave the Cardinals their largest lead at 39-35 with 10:42 to play. Gaffney ended the game as the rebounding leader with 12.

After the Ephs trimmed the gap to 39-38, the teams were not separated by more than two points until the three-pointer that gave Williams a four-point bulge and momentum into the final buzzer.

Wesleyan began another home NESCAC weekend Fri., Jan. 29 with a visit from #12 ranked Tufts. The game was tied 50-50 when Tufts connected on a three-pointer with 5:02 to go, igniting a 12-3 Jumbo run to the final buzzer, giving the visitors a 62-53 victory. Wesleyan led by as many as seven (29-22) in the first half but clung to a 33-31 lead at the break. Tufts forged ahead for the first time in the game seven minutes into the second half and Wesleyan stayed right with the Jumbos until the five-minute mark.

Wesleyan got 18 points from Gaffney and 10 points from LaCroce to pace the attack.

Wesleyan closed out the weekend with a visit from Bates Sat., Jan. 30. The contest was similar to the previous day's outing with Wesleyan leading by as much as nine in the first half, holding a four-point edge at the break, then being caught and passed in the second half, this time with just under 10 minutes to go. An 18-8 Bobcat run spotted the visitors a 55-45 lead with 2:40 left. Wesleyan got as close as 55-51 but Bates netted the final six points, four of them at the line, to claim a 61-51 win.

Erin Gold '11 led the Cards with 20 points, a career-high for her. Gaffney picked up her eighth double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Up next for the squad is a visit from Emmanuel for a non-conference affair Wed., Feb. 3.