Freeport, Bahamas - Four Pioneers reached double digits as the SHU women's basketball team picked up one of the biggest wins in program history, knocking off SEC member Auburn 65-53 Friday afternoon in the opening round of the Junknaoo Jam in the Bahamas. Senior captain Alisa Apo (Freehold, NJ) led the way with 15 points and six rebounds. The Pioneers shot 51% from the floor and 47% from three while holding the Tigers to 31% from the field and just two-for-12 (16%) from beyond the arc.
"This was a great overall team effort and a great win for the program," said head coach Ed Swanson. We shot the ball better than we had all season and our team played strong as the aggressors for most of the day."
Sacred Heart (2-2) dropped in the first bucket of the game on a layup from Morgan Merriman (Seattle, WA). After a Tiger three-pointer Apo responded with a trey of her own at the 16:50 mark to tie the game at 5-5. Callan Taylor (Overland Park, KS) buried a three ball of her own on the next possession to give Sacred Heart a lead it would never relinquish.
Kiley Evans (Cazenovia, NY) stepped in a passing lane and provided a long pass ahead to Apo for an easy transition lay-in. Maggie Cosgrove (Andover, MA) found her stride with back-to-back treys, both with a hand in her face, to propel SHU to a 17-7 cushion. The Pioneers stayed hot and worked consecutive layups from Taylor and Merriman to cap off a 12-0 run.
Auburn (1-3) struggled to deal with the Pioneers smothering defense, especially in the opening twenty minutes, turning the ball over 15 times on the afternoon. "Our defensive intensity on all fronts was the deciding factor today," commented Swanson.
Taylor drained her second three of the half from the top of the arc to put SHU up 19. Two minutes later Cosgrove stuck a pull-up jumper to increase the SHU advantage to 34-13 with 2:20 to play in the half. Evans displayed her physical talents in the final minute of the half, grabbing an offensive rebound and muscling her way inside for a layup. A Tiger three at the buzzer trimmed the Sacred Heart lead to 38-18 going into the locker room.
The Pioneers roared out of the intermission as Apo scored the first five points of the half. The senior guard hit a three and forced a turnover for a fast break layup. Ericka Norman (Chino Hills, CA) sunk a pair of free throws to put SHU on top 47-21. After a Taylor offensive rebound she found senior captain Maureen Reilly (Cherry Hill, NJ) cutting to the basket for two points as SHU opened up the second half with a 12-6 run.
The Tigers got a basket and a foul form Tyrese Tanner but Apo and Cosgrove each hit jumpers to stop the momentum and make it a 56-27 affair. Another Taylor triple gave SHU its largest lead of the game at 32, 61-29. A trey from Norman with 4:56 to play would be the Pioneers final field goal of the game as Auburn closed with a 24-4 run.
Sacred Heart slowed down the game through the Tiger press and limited the number of possessions left to pick up the 65-53 win. The victory is the first for the Pioneer program against a school from one of the major conferences.
Evans and Taylor each finished with 13 points and six rebounds while Cosgrove added 10 to the scoreboard. Norman posted five points and five rebounds in her first collegiate start while Merriman had five points and two boards in her first nod of the year.
The Pioneers will now advance to the championship game of the Lucaya Division at the 2010 Junkanoo Jam. Sacred Heart squares off with the winner of Seton Hall and Boston College while Auburn will face the loser in the consolation game.