Women’s basketball breaks tie for first with big victory

Zach Smart

With the shot clock winding down during the opening minutes of the second half, the Quinnipiac Bobcats shifted the rock to Erin Kerner. The freshman point guard hoisted up an off-balance shot from downtown to beat the buzzer.

The shot swished through the nylon, leaving a jam-packed crowd at the Burt Kahn Court in shock.

It was fitting because the Bobcats shocked the NEC with a 68-46 rout of in-state rival Sacred Heart on Saturday afternoon.

The win catapulted Quinnipiac (15-5, 10-1 in NEC) to the top of the conference as they gained sole possession of first place. The Bobcats have now won seven straight, holding the Northeast Conference’s longest winning streak.

“I just threw it out there and it went in. That (shot) gave us a lot of momentum, and it carried along for the rest of the game,” said Kerner, who scored 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting, hitting 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.

Monique Lee scored 21 points in 23 minutes to pace the Bobcats. The Pioneers had difficulty containing the sophomore forward. When they tried to collapse down on her, they didn’t get there in time. When they tried to front her, they were whistled for fouls.

The Pioneers were penciled in as one of the early favorites in the 2005-2006 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches Poll. They stood alone in first place until a recent meltdown at Long Island University.

“All week we kept hearing about how great Sacred Heart was and how they were killing everybody in our league, and how they couldn’t be beaten,” Kerner said. “We really wanted to take it to them and prove to them that we’re the best team in the league.

“Coach told us before the game, ‘they’re human, just like us.’ We just brought our ‘A’ game, and we shut them down.”

With ownership of first place and bragging rights both on the line, the game was expected to be a down-to-the-wire battle.

It wasn’t. Quinnipiac controlled the tempo throughout and built a 29-point lead three times during a dominant second half.

After reeling off a 6-0 run on back-to-back 3-pointers by Kerri Burke, Sacred Heart trailed 28-20 at the half.

The Pioneers (16-4, 9-2 NEC) cut the lead to two on a pair of Nicolle Rubino free throws at the start of the second half. Quinnipiac responded with 12-6 spurt capped off by Lee’s 3-point play.

Amy Angiollo (team-high seven rebounds) followed this up with a baseline jumper, her lone field goal of the day, to make it 42-30. Sacred Heart answered back as Amanda Pape, who led all scorers with 22 points, swooped in for a lay-up.

Freshman guard Brianna Rooney then buried a three from the right corner, and reserve forward Jackie Harris scored while being fouled by Kaitlin Sowinksi on her way to the hole.

The senior converted the free throw to extend Quinnipiac’s lead to 48-32 with 12:19 remaining.

Though they won the battle on the glass (outboarding the Bobcats by a 40-34 ratio), Sacred Heart allowed the Bobcats to shoot them out of the gym. The Bobcats shot 46.6 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the charity stripe.

The Pioneers connected on just 17-of-55 field goal attempts (30.9 percent, season-low 21.9 percent in the first half) and shot an abysmal 3-of-17 from the perimeter. They made 9-of-13 at the line but committed 24 turnovers.

Depth was a key factor in the win, as the Bobcats had more weapons. When Lee picked up two early fouls and was taken out of the game, Amber Anderson and Harris were solid in her absence. Mandy Pennewell came in off the bench and knocked down a big 3-pointer during an early 15-0 run.

Burke and Pape combined for 65 percent of Sacred Heart’s season-low 46 points. The duo scored all but two of the team’s 20 first-half points. They were held in check during a second half which saw the Bobcats outscore the Pioneers by a 40-26 margin.

“We realized that in order to win we had to stop their top guns. We just really made a focus in our practices and our shootaround to stop their players and put pressure on them,” Kerner said. “It worked. They turned the ball over and never got it going.”