Pioneers Wrap Regular Season at Monmouth on Saturday

Pioneers Wrap Regular Season at Monmouth on Saturday

Feb. 26, 2010

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Sacred Heart Pioneers (19-9, 12-5 NEC) vs. Monmouth Hawks (15-13, 10-7 NEC)

Game #29 - Saturday, February 27, 2010 - 3:00 pm West Long Branch, N.J. - Multi-Purpose Activity Center (4,100)

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The Storyline... The Sacred Heart Pioneers close out the regular season Saturday afternoon facing the Monmouth Hawks on the road. The Pioneers clinched the #3 seed in next week’s Northeast Conference Tournament with a 55-33 win over Fairleigh Dickinson Thursday night. Sophomore Callan Taylor posted her league-best 15th double double to help the Pioneers end a four-game slide with the win. The Hawks have already clinched a spot in the tournament field and can be either the #4 or #5 seed. Monmouth is coming off a 78-69 loss at Quinnipiac last time out.

Series... Sacred Heart leads the all-time series, 16-7 after a 60-45 win at home earlier this season. SHU and Monmouth have met four times in the postseason, splitting all four meetings. SHU knocked out Monmouth in last season’s semifinals and the 2007 semifinal as well, both at home. The Hawks snapped a seven-game Sacred Heart winning streak in the series by knocking the Pioneers in the 2008 quarterfinals at LIU and won a semifinal match-up at Wagner in 2004. The Pioneers are 9-2 against the Hawks at home and 7-3 on the road in West Long Branch, NJ. SHU has won four-straight over the Hawks on the road and eight-straight at home in the Pitt Center.

The Coaches... Ed Swanson (SHU ‘89) is in his 20th season as head coach at his alma mater. Swanson posts a 341-230 record in his career at Sacred Heart. His teams have a 215-111 record since joining the Division I ranks in 1999-00. Swanson was inducted in to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 and is the program’s longest tenured coach and all-time leader in coaching wins (341). He has been named the NEC Coach of the Year three times and is the all-time leader in regular season NEC wins (150). Stephanie Gaitley (Villanova ‘82) is in her second season on the bench at Monmouth University after spending the previous six years at Long Island University. Gaitley has guided the Hawks to a 33-26 record in her two seasons and racked up a 95-82 mark in her six seasons at LIU. She has also had head coaching stops at Richmond and Saint Joseph’s and has amassed a 440-259 record in her 24-year coaching career.

Scouting the Hawks... The Monmouth Hawks enter the season finale with a 10-7 in the NEC and will be either the #4 or #5 seed in the conference tournament. The Hawks have lost two-straight, falling on the road at Quinnipiac, 78-69, Thursday night. Monmouth is led by freshman Alysha Womack who is 12th in the league in scoring at 12.5 points per game. Womack, along with SHU freshman Kiley Evans and Robert Morris rookie Vega Gimeno-Martinez, have won four NEC Rookie of the Week awards this season. The Hawks are fourth in the league in scoring defense allowing 58.3 points per game.

Last Meeting with Monmouth... Sophomore Callan Taylor led four players in double figures with 16 points as Sacred Heart posted a 60-45 win over Monmouth at home on January 4th. Defensively, the Pioneers forced 25 Hawk turnovers and held Monmouth to just 45 points. SHU had 20 points off turnovers and shot 46.9% (23-49) from the field in the win. Senior forward Lindsey Gibson hit five-of-six from the field for a career high 10 points in the win. Monmouth’s Alysha Womack scored the game’s first three points for the Hawks but Sacred Heart used an 11-0 scoring run to take back the lead for good. SHU extended its lead to 15-7 after an Alexis Campbell jumper with 12:40 to go and used a MU scoring drought that lasted over eight minutes to push their lead to 23-15. The Pioneers led 28-18 at the half, paced by nine points from junior Alisa Apo. Sacred Heart’s lead dipped below double digits just once in the second half as Taylor scored 11 of her game-high 16 in the second stanza. The Hawks cut the lead to 30-22 in the opening minutes but back-to-back three’s from Taylor and junior Maggie Cosgrove pushed the Pioneer lead to 44-26 with 10 minutes to go. A pair of Taylor free throws and Cosgrove’s fourth three of the night pushed the SHU lead to its high water mark of 22, 60-38, with 3:18 left as the Pioneers cruised home with the win. Cosgrove finished four-of-six behind the arc on her way to 14 points while Apo finished with 12 on the night. The Hawks out rebounded the Pioneers, 37-28, but shot just 33.3% (16-48) in the loss.

Last Time Out... Sacred Heart sophomore Callan Taylor posted her 15th double double of the season scoring 18 points with 11 rebounds to help guide the Pioneers past Fairleigh Dickinson, 55-33, Thursday night to snap a four-game Northeast Conference losing streak. The Pioneers put together a strong defensive effort, allowing a season-low 33 points in holding the Knights to just 26.0% (13-50) shooting. FDU turned the ball over 24 times, leading to 25 Pioneer points. Taylor’s 18 point night came on six-of-11 shooting and four-of-six from behind the arc, her best showing from downtown since a five-of-six night against Harvard back in November. Leading 15-14 at the 9:34 mark, Sacred Heart began to pull away ending the half outscoring FDU 13-4. A three from Taylor at 3:37 put SHU up eight and Alisa Apo closed the half with a runner in the lane to send her team into the locker room up 28-18. Fairleigh Dickinson could only manage to cut the Pioneer lead to 11, 37-26, as Jenna Strich hit their only three of the night with 12:51 on the clock in the second half. SHU pulled away and doubled their lead to 22 over the next five minutes as a pair of Taylor three’s and a fast-break lay-up from senior Lindsey Gibson helped fuel a 14-3 run for a 51-29 lead. A pair of Apo free throws gave the Pioneers their biggest lead of the night at 24, 53-29, and SHU cruised home for the win. In addition to Taylor’s double dip, Apo finished with 11 points, five assists and four rebounds. The Pioneers shot 34.4% (21-61) but used 14 offensive rebounds for 13 second chance points en route to the win.

NEC Playoff Picture... The defending champion Pioneers are locked into the #3 seed in next week’s NEC Tournament being held at Saint Francis (PA) in Loretto, PA. SHU’s first round opponent is still to be decided but the Pioneers will face Central Connecticut State if the Blue Devils defeat St. Francis (NY) on Saturday. If CCSU falters, Sacred Heart could still face the Blue Devils or possibly Wagner or Mount St. Mary’s depending on other results and tie-breaker scenarios. The top seed in the field will be Robert Morris followed by Long Island in the #2 spot. Only Monmouth and the host Red Flash can occupy the #4 and #5 seeds and will be determined by Saturday’s results. CCSU has clinched and can be the sixth, seventh or eighth seed depending on tie-breakers. There are four teams left to fill the remaining two spots as Mount St. Mary’s (6-11) and Wagner (6-11) control their own destiny needing just a win to get in. Both Quinnipiac (6-11) and Fairleigh Dickinson (5-12) need to win and get help to make the field. The only teams eliminated are St. Francis-NY (1-16) and Bryant (10-7), who is ineligible for postseason play until the 2012-13 season.