Eastern Conn. St. rallies to advance
Warriors close game on 31-12 run to erase double-figure deficit
AMHERST, Mass. – Eastern Connecticut State used a 12-point, second-half run to pull away for a 75-65 win against Baruch on Friday evening in an NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Tournament first-round game in LeFrak Gymnasium. The Warriors improved to 21-8 and will take on either Amherst or Husson on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Amherst, while the Bearcats end their season with a 23-6 record.
The Warriors trailed by 10 early in the second half but closed the game on a 31-12 run. Tanisha Carter had 20 points and 19 rebounds as one of four Eastern Connecticut players to finish in double-figure scoring. The Bearcats also had four players in double figures, with Jessica Duleba totaling team highs in points (16) and rebounds (9).
The opening five minutes featured a back-and-forth battle, with neither team padding its lead until a Jessica Moriarty 3-pointer and a layup by Carter brought the score to 18-12 in favor of the Warriors. The Bearcats cut the deficit to 1, but Brittany Whiteley pushed right back by hitting a 3 and a baseline jumper to give Eastern Connecticut a 23-17 advantage with 10:46 to play.
Baruch took control from there and put together a 16-2 run that gave the Bearcats a 33-25 cushion. After letting its lead drop to two points at 33-31, Baruch answered when Monique Salmon hit an off-balance layup and converted a three-point play on back-to-back possessions. A jumper by Megan Bouwens capped a 7-0 run and gave the Bearcats a 40-31 lead with less than a minute to play in the half, and the Warriors’ Lauren Kelleher accounted for the final points with a layup that made it a 40-33 game at the break.
Baruch pushed its lead to 10 early in the second half, but Eastern Connecticut went on a 12-0 run with 10:43 to play to take its first lead since nine minutes remained in the opening period. Moriarty provided the Warriors with a huge boost when she buried a 3 from the left wing despite being knocked to the ground on a foul. Moriarty was unable to complete the four-point play, but she gave her team a 61-55 edge with 7:59 showing on the clock.
Eastern Connecticut kept its foot on the gas and took a nine-point lead when Jessica Blodgett knocked down a 3-pointer and Amanda Pierlioni hit a jumper to bring the score to 70-61 with less than five minutes to go. Bouwens ended Baruch’s drought with a tough layup, but Blodgett responded with a 3 from the corner to bring Eastern Connecticut’s advantage to 10 points at 73-63. The Warriors led by as many as 12 and closed out the game with a 75-65 victory.
In addition to Carter’s impressive double-double, the Warriors got 14 points from Whiteley, 12 from Kelleher and 10 from Blodgett, who also had eight rebounds and six assists. Eastern Connecticut shot 54.5 percent from the floor in the second half while holding Baruch to 28.2 percent. Bouwens contributed 14 points for the Bearcats, while Salmon and Regina Washington had 13 and 10, respectively.
The Warriors improve to 17-14 in NCAA Tournament play and are 9-2 in their past 11 games of the season.