ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy women's basketball team never trailed and led by double figures for the final 30 minutes of a 63-47 victory over Lafayette Saturday night at Alumni Hall in Annapolis.
"I'm super happy; from start to finish, this was a really good win for our team," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper, who won the 300th game of her coaching career tonight.
The Mids (12-10, 5-3 Patriot League) used two small runs in the early part of the first half to separate themselves from the Leopards (8-15, 2-6). Navy first went on a 9-2 run that was started by back-to-back layups by Jade Geif (So., Lakeville, Minn.) and ended with a jumper from Audrey Bauer (So., Lake Zurich, Ill.) that gave Navy a 17-8 lead. A basket and foul shot by Lafayette's Emily Homan sliced three points off of the margin, but a jumper by Navy's Sam Himlin (Fr., Forty Fort, Pa.) started a 9-0 run by the Mids that gave them a 26-11 advantage. Himlin's basket was followed by Erin Edwards (Sr., Hockessin, Del.) sinking a free throw that increased Navy's lead to 20-11. Alix Membreno (So., Loxahatchee, Fla.) then tallied the ensuing three field goals for the Mids to push the cushion out to 15 points at 26-11 with 8:29 left in the first half.
Lafayette whittled the margin down to 10 points on a pair of occasions (26-16, 28-18), but Navy expanded the margin to as many as 17 points (39-22) before going into halftime holding a 39-24 lead.
Navy shot 53.3 percent (16-30) from the field in the first half while holding Lafayette to a 37-percent effort (10-27). Additionally, turned the ball over just four times while forcing the Leopards into 10 turnovers. Equally important, the Mids tallied 12 points off of the Lafayette turnovers and limited the Leopards to just two points following the Navy miscues with the ball.
The Mids led by at least 13 points (41-28) and by as many as 18 points (46-28, 48-30) in the second half before Lafayette went on a mini run of its own and closed to within 12 points of Navy at 50-36 with 10:39 left to play. Bauer would miss a jumper on Navy's next possession, but Lafayette missed a jumper on its next time down the floor as well. Chloe Stapleton (Fr., Cary, N.C.) then hit a three-point field goal from the left baseline to boost the margin back to 15 points. After Lafayette missed a shot on its next time down the floor, Stapleton promptly drilled another three-pointer, this time from the right baseline, to give Navy a 56-38 lead with 8:20 showing on the clock.
"At halftime we told ourselves that the score was 0-0," said Stapleton. "The second half is a whole new game."
"I'm really excited that we `won' the second half (24-23)," said Pemper. "We've had some trouble holding onto leads in the second half. Audrey hit a big three-pointer for us and Chloe's two three-pointers were huge."
Navy's shooting percentage dropped somewhat in the second half (34.5%), but so too did Lafayette's (35.5%). The Mids were 4-of-10 from three-point land after halftime, while the Leopards were 2-of-13 from outside of the arc for the game.
Navy also held advantages over Lafayette in rebounds (39-26), turnovers forced (15-13) and free throws attempted (8-7). The latter number was key as Lafayette entered the game averaging over 20 free throw attempts a game against league foes while Navy was averaging just 10 attempts from the line a game.
The 63 points tallied by Navy is the most points the Mids have scored in a league game this season, while the 47 points scored by Lafayette is the fewest Navy has allowed in a league contest.
Navy's offense was very balanced as all nine Mids who entered the game scored at least two points and four Mids tallied at least nine points. Geif ended the game sinking 6-of-9 field goal attempts to lead Navy with 14 points to go along with a Navy-best six rebounds.
"Jade is just so tough," said Pemper. "We spent some time this week working on passing into the post. That hasn't always been our strength, but I think tonight we did a nice job of it. Jade has some good confidence going."
Geif was joined in double figures by teammates Bauer with 11 points (to go along with four assists) and by Membreno with 10 points. Edwards also contributed nine points, five rebounds and two steals.
Homan's 16 points led all players in the game, but she needed 14 field goal attempts to reach that tally. Lafayette's other post player, 6-7 center Danielle Fiacco, was limited to 16 points and three rebounds.
"We had a really tough game with their posts the first time we played Lafayette," said Stapleton. "Jade and Audrey did a really good job today."
Navy will now take to the road for a pair of games next week. The Mids will first play Wednesday at Holy Cross before travelling to West Point, N.Y., to face Army in the annual Star Game between the two teams on Saturday. Navy and Army are tied for third place in the Patriot League standings with identical 5-3 records, with Holy Cross one game in back of the two service academy programs with a 4-4 record.