Jan. 25, 2014
WORCESTER, Mass. -
An 18-point halftime lead provided the Navy women's basketball team with just enough of a cushion for the Mids to hang on for a 60-53 win over Holy Cross Saturday afternoon at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass.
The win was the ninth in a row for Navy - the only longer winning streaks in school history were 11-game runs in both the 1990-91 and 1995-96 season -- and gives the Mids an overall record of 16-3 and a Patriot League mark of 8-0. Holy Cross fell to 17-7 overall and 4-4 in league play with the loss.
"Holy Cross executed its stuff well," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper, who is 6-0 against the Crusaders at the Hart Center after the Mids had posted a 1-20 record against them in the venue prior to her arrival. "They have weapons all over. In the first half, with us shooting so well, it had some effect on them, so you didn't necessarily see them at their best offensively, the first 10 minutes especially. Who knows what started it, whether it was their defense or our poor offense, but once all that started they had the momentum for 19 minutes. Against a really good team on the road and not have the momentum for 19 minutes and still pull out a win is incredible."
Everything was clicking for the Mids in the opening 20 minutes of play. Navy went on an 18-0 run midway through the first half to jump out to a 31-10 advantage. The Mids would take a 41-23 lead at the break thanks to their connecting on 6 of 10 three-point shots and 57.1 percent of their overall shots from the floor. Defensively in the half, Navy held the Crusaders to a 3-of-9 effort from three-point land and a 32.1 percent shooting performance in all.
Holy Cross quickly scored the opening five points of the second half, but the Mids still held a double-digit lead until the 10:16 mark when the Crusaders pulled to within 46-37. Navy answered with a 6-0 run of its own to regain a 52-37 lead with 7:27 left to play. The Mids then held a 54-42 cushion on a layup by Jade Geif (Sr., Lakeville, Minn.) with just under five minutes showing on the clock.
Back came the Crusaders on a 9-0 run to make it a 54-51 game with 1:36 left in the game. Raquel Scott promptly stole the ball for Holy Cross to end the next Navy possession, but she would miss a short jumper with 42 seconds left that was gathered in by Kara Pollinger
(Sr., Fort Gay, W.Va.). Pollinger was able to run 11 more seconds off the clock before she was fouled. She made both attempts from the charity stripe to again made it a two-possession game.
Lisa Mifsud missed a three-point attempt for the Crusaders on their next time down the court that Scott rebounded and scored on a putback with 14 seconds remaining. After a Holy Cross timeout, the Mids inbounded the ball to Pollinger who was fouled with just one more second ticking off the clock. She walked to the other end of the court and again converted both free throw attempts to give Navy a 58-53 lead with 13 seconds left to play.
Holy Cross again tried a three-point shot that misfired, with Pollinger there again to snare the carom. She was fouled right away and calmly made both attempts to close out the scoring with three seconds remaining.
"We remember our last four baskets and how big they were," said Pemper. "Sarita Condie (Fr., Lovelend, Nev.) had a great, running left-handed layup, Jade had a really big shot off the glass inside, Erin Meador (Jr., Clifton, Va.) came up with a couple of big boards, Kara had some big rebounds, Chloe Stapleton (Jr., Cary, N.C.) came up with a big steal. There definitely were some big plays, particularly on the defensive end.
"But Kara's six free throws, what can you say? They were absolutely necessary to get the win that she made them. For her to not get a lot of shots, and to keep her head in the game was huge."
Navy turned the ball over 10 times, missed all five of its three-point attempts and shot just 28.6 percent from the floor in scoring just 19 second-half points. That is the lowest point total in a half by the Mids this season (21 vs, Iona) and ended a stretch of 13 straight half's of scoring at least 30 points. Holy Cross shot 32.4 percent from the field after halftime, which included a 5-of-16 showing from three-point range, and committed just two second-half turnovers in scoring 30 points after halftime.
Navy's 60 total points was its lowest since the Mids scored 57 against Princeton in early December. The previous low for the Mids in a league game this season was 67, a tally the Mids reached in their first two league games of the year against Loyola and Lafayette.
"I thought Holy Cross played really tough defense, especially when we got our lead," said Pemper. "They were staying with Kara. I thought we got a little fatigued, for whatever reason; the time of year, being on the road twice in a week, playing against such good people that are so well coached, getting off to such a great lead with which we were pretty emotional. We just got gassed, to be honest. We made some uncharacteristic turnovers in the second half. I think our fatigue led us to not be super sharp on offense in the second half. Ultimately I credit Holy Cross' defense. They played really tough."
Aiding the Mids was their rebounding effort. Navy was plus-eight on the boards in the first half and plus-four in the second for an overall advantage of 42-30.
Alix Membreno (Sr., Loxahatchee Fla.) and Pollinger each scored 17 points to lead the Mids. Membreno also snared a Navy-best eight boards, while Pollinger chipped in six boards and five assists.
Mifsud led Holy Cross with 12 points, while Scott posted a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
After playing three road games in a span of four over the last two weeks -- including Wednesday at Lehigh -- Navy will be home for its two games this week. The back-to-back games in Alumni Hall starts with a Wednesday night gainst American and concludes Saturday night against Lafayette.