Fairfield, CT – The Sacred Heart women's basketball team got a season high 20 points from sophomore Kiley Evans (Cazenovia, NY) en route to a 66-54 victory at home Monday night. Callan Taylor (Overland Park, KS) posted her ninth double-double of the season with 13 points and 16 rebounds, including a perfect 8-for-8 eight mark from the foul line. SHU was clutch at the charity stripe all night and tallied a season high 26-of-31 attempts, 84 percent. The Pioneers have now won 12 straight games at home against the Bobcats and are 13-1 all-time in the William H. Pitt Center against their Nutmeg State rival.
"We have faced a lot of adversity as a team this year," commented SHU head coach Ed Swanson. "We responded to it again tonight just like we have all season."
Sacred Heart (15-10, 9-5 NEC) opened the game with a 6-2 advantage on the strength of baskets from Taylor and Evans as well as a Enjoli Bland (Queen Creek, AZ) free throw. The Bobcats got hot from beyond the arc and went up 15-10 as Courtney Kaminski buried a pair of triples. The Pioneers responded with a 7-1 run and regained the lead, 17-16, on a layup from Morgan Merriman (Seattle, WA).
Quinnipiac (12-13, 9-5 NEC) switched the momentum back into their favor with an 11-2 spurt over the next 3:30. Kaminski, who finished the first half with 12 points for QU, hit a jumper to make it 27-19 and force the Pioneers to call a timeout. Ericka Norman (Chino Hills, CA) completed a conventional three-point play at the 3:59 mark to cut the SHU deficit to five at 29-24. Norman set a new career high with 14 points and tied her best performance dishing out seven assists. The freshman point guard knotted the game two seconds before the end of the half on another drive and lay-in at the rim.
The Pioneers were held to 32 percent (10-31) shooting in the opening period but were 2-of-3 from three-point range. Evans led SHU with nine points at the intermission while SHU grabbed nine steals in the first half. Alexis Campbell (Ashburn, VA) was 4-of-4 at the foul line for the Pioneers as the junior guard finished with six total points. The Bobcats swatted away eight shots in the opening twenty minutes and finished the game with 16 total blocks.
Taylor and Felicia Barron traded trifectas for the two sides in the early stages of the second half. From there the Pioneers went on a 9-2 spurt, with seven points coming from Evans, to grab a 45-38 advantage. Shortly later Quinnipiac cut the SHU lead to five but another Norman three-point play made it a 50-42 affair. The Bobcats got to within five one more time at 54-49 on a Kaminski trey but that would be as close as the visitors would get.
Four straight Pioneer free throws and a lay-in by Norman gave Sacred Heart its first double digit lead of the game, 60-49, with 3:10 to play. The lead grew to as many as 16 down the stretch before the Pioneers claimed the 66-54 triumph at the final buzzer. Taylor supplied nine points and 11 rebounds in the second period as the Pioneers avenged Saturday afternoon's loss at the hands of Quinnipiac.
"It was great for us to come back after the loss and for everyone to play well," said Evans after the victory. "It's a unique opportunity to play a team back-to-back and we were able to make adjustments and get the win."
The victory also clinches a playoff berth in the Northeast Conference tournament, the Pioneers have made every NEC playoffs since joining the league in 1999-2000.
The Pioneer women's basketball team returns to action Saturday afternoon as they travel to Smithfield, RI for a 5:30 pm contest with Bryant.