The Quinnipiac women’s basketball team is moving to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season after it defeated the University of Miami on Saturday afternoon, 86-72, in Storrs, Connecticut.
One play could sum up the Bobcats second-half effort. In the final minute of the third quarter, sophomore forward Paige Warfel’s shot in the post was blocked. Junior forward Paula Strautmane saved the ball along the baseline with a pass to junior guard Edel Thornton. Thornton passed the ball to a Warfel, who was falling out of bounds. Warfel was able to pass it to Strautmane, who then kicked it out to senior guard Carly Fabbri for a 3-point shot. Fabbri’s shot didn’t go in, but junior forward Aryn McClure got the offensive board and found an open Straumane for a layup.
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The play gave the Bobcats their first lead of the second half as they went up 53-52. Even though Miami took the lead back on the next possession, Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri credited that play towards breaking the Hurricanes “will.”
“The fact that we were out-toughing, that’s a signature of the program,” Tricia Fabbri said. “To come up with that play, and then the play, and then the place did erupt — we were starting to play very smoothly offensively in that fourth quarter. The tenacity, how hard we fought together, and the atmosphere…and then we were able to keep the gas pedal down.”
Momentum from that play propelled the Bobcats to outscore the Hurricanes, 33-18, in the fourth quarter. More specifically, the Bobcats went on a 14-1 run during the middle three minutes of the quarter that gave them the lead for good and secured a repeat victory over the Hurricanes.
[media-credit id=2200 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]The run started with a 3-pointer by junior guard Brittany Martin, who scored seven of her 11 points in the fourth quarter, which gave the Bobcats a 62-60 lead with 6:57 remaining. Miami junior forward/center Emese Hof was called for a charge on the next Hurricanes possession. The Bobcats took advantage of the turnover as Thornton made a layup and was fouled, completing a 3-point play after Martin grabbed an offensive rebound.
Coincidentally, the same thing happened again in each team’s next offensive possession as Hof was called for another charge and Thornton was fouled as she made a layup, but missed the free throw. After Miami made a free throw on its next possession, redshirt junior forward Jen Fay made a layup and then hit a 3-pointer on the next Bobcats possession to put Quinnipiac up, 72-61, with 4:19 left.
The Bobcats held a double-digit lead from that point on as McClure closed the run off with a pair of free throws.
A reason why the Bobcats were able to go on that run was due to the fact that they were able to combat the Hurricane’s size. The Bobcats had trouble with Hof and senior forward/center Erykah Davenport, who are each at least two inches taller than any Bobcat that played on Saturday, as they stand at 6-feet-3-inches and 6-feet-2-inches, respectively.
Even though Davenport finished with 21 points and nine rebounds and Hof finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, the Bobcats were able to slow the duo down as the game wore on, causing the Hurricanes to miss shots, including a stretch where they only made one of 11 shots.
“They really took advantage of us with Hof and Davenport. Those two were really giving us trouble with their high-low,” Tricia Fabbri said. “But hanging in there, being tough, knowing where we needed to be and over-helping on the inside allowed us to clog enough, for them to miss enough and for us to rebound enough.”
To go along with the defensive effort, six Bobcats scored double-digits as Fay led the way with 19 points. Thornton, who is Irish, may have had the luck on her side on this St. Patrick’s Day as she scored 14 points in just her second start of the season.
[media-credit id=2200 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]“I had to, we had to,” Thornton said on winning on the holiday with her family from Ireland in the crowd. “They traveled all the way from Ireland so I couldn’t send them home any other way. It means a lot, in all regards, there was great enthusiasm for the whole game, obviously we want to win but to but to do it today was extra special.”
Another junior that had a good day was Aryn McClure. She nearly finished with a triple double as she scored 13 points and had nine rebounds and nine assists.
“Miami played me pretty well, they really scouted me so I couldn’t do much offensively,” McClure said. “So I tried to do everything else for my team, everyone was hitting shots and that’s the reason why I had nine assists.”
The win sets up an all-Connecticut matchup in the second round as Quinnipiac will take on the No. 1 seeded UConn Huskies (33-0) on Monday night in the Huskies home arena. But the Bobcats want to enjoy Saturday’s win before they prepare for UConn.
“When you get a big win, you better enjoy it,” Tricia Fabbri said. “So we will enjoy this one tonight and get ready for UConn tomorrow.”