WORCESTER, Mass. - The Navy women's basketball team scored the opening 19 points of the game and never looked back in cruising to a 73-56 victory over Holy Cross Wednesday night at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass.
The Mids (13-10, 6-3 Patriot League) had posted a 1-20 record against the Crusaders (13-11, 4-5 Patriot League) in the Hart Center up through the 2008 season. However, Navy has now defeated Holy Cross on each of its last four trips to Worcester. That ties the Mids with American for the longest winning streak by an opponent over Holy Cross in the Hart Center.
Navy connected on field goals on its first three possessions of the game. Erin Edwards (Sr., Hockessin, Del.) missed Navy's first field goal attempt of the evening, but Alix Membreno (So., Loxahatchee, Fla.) was there for the offensive rebound and made the putback to place the Mids on the scoreboard. Audrey Bauer (So., Lake Zurich, Ill.) stole the ball for the Mids on the ensuing Holy Cross possession, and that led to a layup for Membreno and a timeout by Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons. Edwards ended the next possession for the Crusaders with a steal on one end of the floor, then drilled a three-point field goal attempt on the other end to give Navy a 7-0 lead 100 seconds into the game.
A Holy Cross missed shot was followed by Jade Geif (So., Lakeville, Minn.) missing a pair of free throw attempts for Navy's first empty possession of the young game. Bauer quickly gave the ball back to the Mids with another steal, and that resulted in Kara Pollinger (So., Fort Gay, W.Va.) knocking down a three-pointer to make the score 10-0. The teams traded possessions without scoring, then another Holy Cross missed shot was followed by Geif scoring on an inside move to make Navy's opening run 12 straight points.
Bauer tallied another steal for the Mids, with Geif being fouled while shooting on Navy's offensive end. She made the first shot from the charity stripe before missing the second, but Bauer was there for the carom to keep Navy's possession alive. That effort led to Pollinger sinking a three-pointer off of a pass from Geif to give Navy a 16-0 advantage. The Crusaders again missed a shot on their next possession, with Bauer sinking yet another three-pointer to expand the Navy lead to 19-0 just 4:35 into the game.
"I give our starters a lot of credit," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. "I think they were really motivated by our loss to Holy Cross (55-38) earlier this year in Annapolis. Our defense let us down in that game and we didn't shoot the ball great. We thought that if we could make some shots things could be different tonight, and that was exactly what happened."
Navy connected on 7 of its opening 10 shots of the game, including a 4-of-6 effort from outside of the three-point line. Conversely, Holy Cross missed its first 10 shots of the game and turned the ball over five times before making its first field goal of the game with 12:48 left in the first half.
The Crusaders would pull to within 14 points of the Mids three times (19-5, 21-7, 23-9) before Navy expanded the lead to 24 points at 34-10. Navy would eventually take a 37-16 lead over Holy Cross at halftime.
Navy shot 50 percent from the field in the first half (15-30), which featured a 54.5-percent effort (6-11) from outside of the three-point arc. Defensively, the Mids held Holy Cross to a shooting percentage of 23.1 percent (6-26) and 1-of-10 shooting from three-point land in the opening 20 minutes of play. Navy also held halftime advantages over Holy Cross in rebounds (21-16), steals (9-2), points off turnovers (18-4) and second chance points (14-5).
Holy Cross tried to make several runs at Navy in the second half. The Crusaders winnowed the margin down to 15 points (39-24) two minutes into the frame, but back-to-back three pointers by Bauer and Chloe Stapleton (Fr., Cary, N.C.) pushed Navy's lead back to 21 points at 45-24 with 17 minutes showing on the clock. Holy Cross scored the ensuing five points, but that stretch was ended by another Stapleton three-pointer to make the score 48-29 with just over 14 minutes remaining.
The Navy lead hovered between 16 and 25 points over the remainder of the game.
"It seemed as if every time Holy Cross made a basket or two, we were able to respond with a couple of our own," said Pemper. "We displayed a lot of poise tonight."
After hitting 6-of-11 three-point attempts in the first half, Navy was 6-of-10 from three-point land in the second half. The Mids shot 47.8 percent from the field in the second half to end the game with a mark of 49.1 percent.
Five different Mids made at least one three-point field goal in the game, with Bauer sinking 4-of-6 attempts and Pollinger making all three of her long-range shots. Edwards and Stapleton both made a pair of triples on the night, with Chantel Lavender (Jr., Trenton, N.J.) also adding one trey.
Bauer led all players in the game with 16 points and five steals, Geif tallied 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and added eight rebounds and six assists, Membreno posted 10 points and seven boards, Edwards scored 10 points, and Pollinger contributed nine points and six assists.
Holy Cross would shoot 45.5 percent from the floor after halftime to end the game with a mark of 35.6 percent. Alex Smith led the Crusaders with 12 points.
"We played smart defense," said Pemper, "though Holy Cross did miss shots they usually make. I liked the intensity we played with. It also was nice to see a team back up what they talked about doing in the locker room before the game, and tonight that focus was on scoring which we did."
After returning to Annapolis Thursday morning, the Mids will depart Friday for West Point and a Saturday game against Army in Christl Arena. The Star Game between the two academy programs will tip at noon and will be aired live on the CBS Sports Network.
Patriot League Standings
4-5 Holy Cross