AMHERST, Mass. – Senior Beth Suggs had 26 points and 13 rebounds to lead New England to a 67-58 victory against Bridgewater State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Friday at LeFrak Gymnasium.
In winning their school-record 25th game and 20th in a row, the Nor’easters (25-4) advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship for the first time in program history. The Bears ended their season with a 23-4 record.
Suggs was 11-for-15 from the floor and grabbed five of her rebounds on offense to post her 17th double-double in 29 games. Sophomore Kelly Coleman also recorded a double-double (her ninth) with 15 points and a game-best 14 boards. Rookie point guard Meghan Gribbin added 11 points and tied a career high with nine assists. She was 8 of 8 at the free throw line.
Senior Michaela Cosby scored 20 points for Bridgewater State to end her career seventh on the Bears’ scoring list with 1,092 career points. She also added six rebounds, five assists and five steals. Classmate Elisha Homich added 11 points, while junior Megan Boutilette finished with eight points, 12 rebounds and five steals.
Leading 31-20 at the break, UNE saw its lead evaporate early in the second half as Bridgewater State opened with a 9-1 run during the first three minutes.
The teams traded baskets during the next few minutes before the Nor’easters put together a stretch of eight unanswered points to grab a 47-34 cushion with 10:42 on the clock. Freshman Lauren Hayden scored four points during the run.
The Bears answered right back, outscoring UNE 14-6 in the ensuing five minutes to make the score 53-48. Suggs countered with six consecutive points and Gribbin added a pair of foul shots to put the Nor’easters back up with 3:10 left. UNE managed to hold off Bridgewater State to seal the victory.
For the contest, the Nor’easters got 64 of their 67 points in the paint or at the free throw line. UNE made 18 of 23 (78.3 percent) foul shot attempts and held a 49-33 edge on the glass. Big Blue shot 45.3 percent (24 of 53) from the floor, compared to 31.3 percent (21 of 67) for Bridgewater State.
The teams combined for 23 turnovers and were just 1-for-13 shooting from beyond the arc. The Bears shot just 20 percent (6 of 30) from the floor and failed to make any of their eight 3-point attempts. UNE overcame 14 first-half turnovers by shooting 44.4 percent (12 of 27) and holding a 26-16 rebounding advantage.