UNCASVILLE, CT (November 11, 2011) – R-Junior Justin Swidowski (Cinnaminson, NJ) scored 18 points and pulled down seven rebounds in his Pioneer debut to lead Sacred Heart past the Hartford Hawks, 70-50, in the opening game of the 2011 Connecticut 6 Classic Friday afternoon. R-Junior Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT) hit for 15 points with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals to lead SHU to the season-opening win.
The Pioneers (1-0) overcame a 19 turnover afternoon by turning up their defense holding the Hawks to just 27.3% (18-66) shooting and a five-for-30 effort from behind the three-point arc (16.7%). SHU also held the edge on the glass, pulling down 53 caroms, hitting the 50 rebound mark for the first time since a loss at Quinnipiac during the 2003-04 season (50 – 1/21/04).
Hartford (0-1) struggled mightily in the first half, making just seven-of-31 to trail by 11 at the break, 26-15. The Pioneers built their lead to 14 with 7:31 left in the second half but had to stave off a late Hawk rally to pull away for the win. SHU got the job done at the free throw line in the second half, making 20 of 28 at the charity stripe, including 13-of-14 over the last 1:32 to seal the win.
SHU used a balanced overall offensive effort with nine of the 10 players who recorded minutes finding the scoring column. Sophomore Chris Evans (Stamford, CT) came off the bench for eight points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Swidowski made seven of the 10 shots he took and also had a pair of steals and blocks on the defensive end.
"In the first half, we looked to played defense," Gibson said. "We've stressed defense all preseason and I feel like our guys are starting to push up more on defense, one-on-one man, and we are trying to switch less. It puts more responsibility on the individual, which is good."
For Hartford, Yolonzo Moore II scored 12 points while Jamie Schneck scored 11 with seven rebounds.
The Pioneers will host Stony Brook on Tuesday night, November 15th in their 2011-12 home opener. Opening tip is scheduled for 7:00 pm.