Feb. 24, 2010

Courtesy of Kean Athletics

Senior guard Melissa Beyruti (Union City, N.J.) knocked down six-three-pointers to become the most prolific three-point shooter in NCAA history and the Kean University women’s basketball team advanced to the New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship game with a 92-68 win over Montclair State University on Tuesday evening.

Rookie Naimah Clemons (Newark, N.J.) scored a game and career-high 25 points to lead #2 Kean (25-1) to its 25th straight win, tying the school mark for most consecutive wins and advancing the Cougars to their fourth straight NJAC Championship game.  Kean, who won back-to-back titles in 2006-07 and 2007-08, will host William Paterson University for the NJAC title on Friday, February 26, at 7 p.m.  As the top-seed in the NJAC North Division, the Pioneers defeated Rowan University, 75-60, in the other semifinal.

For Montclair State (16-10), junior forward Kisandra Ayanbeku (Brockton, Mass.) had 17 points and 18 rebounds, as the Red Hawks fall to the Cougars in the NJAC semifinals for the second straight season.

Entering the game just one three-pointer behind Laurie Koehn of Kansas State, Beyruti knocked down her second three-pointer of the night just 3:07 into the contest, giving her 393 to become the all-time leader among all of NCAA Division I, II and III.  She finished the game with 22 points and she now has 397 career three-pointers.  

Clemons took the opening tip in for a lay-up just three-seconds into the game and the Cougars would not look back, as Beyruti’s record-breaking three with just under 17 minutes remaining in the opening half built a 10-point lead at 15-5.  The Cougars would extend the lead to as many as 20 points on a pair of occasions in the first half, before settling for a 50-34 lead at the break.

Clemons, Beyruti and senior guard Cardiss Jackman (Tobyhanna, Pa.) accounted for all but four of Kean’s first-half points, as Clemons led the way with 16 points and Beyruti and Jackman each added 15 points.  The three-some hit 19-of-26 shots from the floor and 8-of-14 from downtown, including Beyruti’s 5-of-7 performance from long-range in the opening half.  

The Cougars scored 30 points off of turnovers in the first half, making 10 steals on 20 Red Hawk miscues.  

In the second half, Montclair State trimmed the lead to 11 points at 56-45 on a three-pointer by Ayanbeku less than three minutes into the half, before the Cougars scored six straight points to push the advantage back to 17 points with 14:26 left in the game.  

The Red Hawks would again cut the deficit to 11 points, pulling within 64-53 with 11:44 to go, however an 8-0 Kean run pushed the lead out to 22 points at 81-59 with less than six minutes to go and the Cougars would take their largest lead at the in the final minute with the 24-point victory..  

Clemons finished with eight steals, seven rebounds and four assists, while Jackman chopped in with 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting.  Junior Angelica Bermudez (Jersey City, N.J.) rounded out the Cougars in double-figures, coming off the bench to score 11 points and grab seven rebounds.

For Montclair State, senior forward Catherine Cristino (Farmingdale, N.J.) had 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists.  

The Cougars face #8 William Paterson for the second time in the last four seasons for the NJAC title and the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Tournament.