Fairfield, CT - The SHU women's basketball team secured a home game in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Northeast Conference tournament with a 65-59 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson Monday night inside the William H. Pitt Center. Callan Taylor (Overland Park, KS) registered her league leading 12th double-double of the year with 16 points and 16 rebounds. Alexis Campbell (Ashburn, VA) dropped in a career high 13 points while Ericka Norman (Chino Hills, CA) tied a career best dishing out seven assists.
Sacred Heart (18-11, 12-6 NEC) got the first bucket of the game on a three-pointer from Campbell. The Knights would go up 6-5 at the 17:26 mark as Jasmyra Saunders stuffed a pair of treys in the opening stages of the game. Saunders finished the night with a game high 25 points to go along with eight rebounds in a losing effort.
Fairleigh Dickinson (14-15, 7-11 NEC) battled even with the Pioneers throughout the first period and knotted the game at 19-19 with eight minutes to play in the half on another Saunders trifecta. The Knights then used a 9-2 spurt to take their largest lead of the game at 29-21 on a pair of Jordan Sykes free throws.
The final four minutes of the half then became the Ericka Norman show. The freshman guard, and reigning NEC rookie of the week, scored eight points while notching two steals and an assist as the Pioneers closed the period on a 14-0 run. Blair Koniszewski (Vienna, VA) buried a trey to even the score at 28-28 with 2:33 left in the half. Norman made it a 33-28 affair with a conventional three-point play while Kiley Evans (Cazenovia, NY) finished a layup for the final points of the stanza as SHU took a 35-28 cushion into the intermission.
Norman tallied 11 of her 15 total points in the opening twenty minutes of action. For the second straight night the freshman flirted with a triple-double, also finishing with seven assists, six steals and six rebounds. Taylor tallied six points and seven boards in the first half while the Pioneers held a 20-13 edge on the glass in the frame. Sacred Heart shot 48.3 percent (14-29) in the opening period compared to a 37.9 percent (10-27) mark for the Knights.
Maggie Cosgrove (Andover, MA) stuck the 250th three-pointer of her career 1:42 into the second half to improve the SHU advantage to double-digits at 40-30. Shortly later the Pioneers engineered a 10-0 run as Morgan Merriman (Seattle, WA) capped the surge with a fast break lay-in. The 17 point advantage at 50-33 with 11:40 to play would be the largest SHU lead of the night.
Fairleigh Dickinson began chipping away at its deficit and cut the game to 10 points with a two free throws from Mariyah Laury to make it 54-44 with 7:43 on the clock. The Pioneers held Laury, who ranked second in the league averaging 15.9 points per game entering the fray, to just nine points Monday night. The Knights used a 9-2 spurt, which ended on a Saunders fast break layup, down the stretch to make the Pitt Center tense with a one possession game at 62-59 with just over a minute remaining in regulation.
Sacred Heart missed a three-point attempt on the next possession but FDU threw away the outlet pass in transition to give the ball back to the Pioneers. The Knights were forced to foul with 26 seconds remaining and sent Norman to the foul line after the freshman had just re-entered the game, returning from an injury. Norman was clutch and buried both freebies to make it 64-59. The Pioneer defense locked down and the Knights missed a short jumper to conclude a disjointed possession. Koniszewski tallied the final point of the night with a free throw as Sacred Heart ended the regular season with a 65-59 triumph at home.
The Pioneers finished the night shooting 40 percent (24-60) from the field while FDU came in at 37 percent (20-54). The Knights held the advantage from beyond the arc at 6-of-16 (37.5%) compared to 4-of-14 (28.6%) clip for the home side. Sacred Heart also forced Fairleigh Dickinson into 21 turnovers and held a slim 40-39 rebounding advantage at the final horn.
The Pioneers finish the regular season as the third seed in the upcoming NEC tournament. Sacred Heart will host sixth seeded Central Connecticut State Saturday at the William H. Pitt Center, tip-off time is to be determined.