The Storyline... The SHU women's basketball team begins its search for a third league title Monday night in the Northeast Conference opener against Mount St. Mary's. The Pioneers return home after defeating Siena, 72-33, behind stiff defense and a 22 point effort from senior captain Alisa Apo. Sacred Heart was picked to finish third in the NEC coaches' preseason poll, a spot SHU has never finished lower than since joining the league in the 1999-2000 season. The Pioneers posted a 12-6 record last year while the Mountaineers narrowly missed the playoffs, compiling a 6-12 mark versus NEC opposition. SHU has won three of its last four with the only loss coming at the hands of national #1 UConn. Mount St. Mary's has dropped its last six games most recently falling at home to Binghamton 53-39.
Series... The Pioneers own a 19-4 all-time record against the Mount with all 23 meetings coming at the division I level. Sacred Heart swept a pair of meetings with the Mountaineers in 2009-10, winning 67-56 at home before edging their NEC rival 51-47 on the road. SHU has won five straight in the series, including a postseason decision in 2008-09, and last lost to Mount St. Mary's January 19, 2008 in Emmitsburg, MD.
Scouting the Mount... Mount St. Mary's is winless (0-5) so far this season on the road. Ashley Christie has paced the Mountaineer offense in 2010-11 averaging 8.6 points per game. Mary Dunn is the squad's leading rebounder with 6.4 boards per contest. The Mount is scoring just over 47 points per game this year while shooting 30 percent from both the floor and from three-point range. Mount St. Mary's is also giving up an extra 11.1 rebounds per game to opponents this season. All eight of the Mount's losses this year have been by double digits while MSM earned its only win of the season in a nine point triumph over UMES.
SHU Against the NEC... The Pioneers have a 150-48 (.758) record in their 12 year history in the Northeast Conference. Along with a pair of league championships Sacred Heart is one of just two teams to go undefeated in league play and win the postseason tournament, accomplishing that feat back in 2009-10. SHU was triumphant in 11 of its first 12 conference games last season, including two victories over the Mount.
Apo Breaks Out... Senior captain Alisa Apo exploded last week for 17 points against Yale and dropped in a season best 22 in a rout of Siena. The high-scoring guard now sits at 1,535 points for her career, fourth on the SHU all-time list. Next in Apo's sights, just six points ahead of the senior, is former teammate Kaitlin Sowinski. Apo also continues to climb the all-time assist list, standing at 381 for her career. She needs just 14 more assists in 2010-11 to have the most in Pioneer history, a mark currently held by Kerri Burke's 394 helpers.
"Taylor"-Made Scorer ... Junior Callan Taylor leads the Pioneers with 14.8 points per game in 2010-11 and has notched double digit points in every game this season. Taylor ranks third in the Northeast Conference in both overall scoring and field goal percentage (51%). The six-foot Kansas native also ranks first on the squad with 6.3 rebounds per game, 13th in the conference.
No Late Comebacks... Sacred Heart is a perfect 3-0 when having the advantage entering halftime. SHU is even better, 5-0, after being on top with ten minutes remaining in regulation. However, the Pioneers are 0-4 this season when they trail with ten minutes left. The closest Pioneer win this season was a 70-69 decision over Yale in which the Bulldogs hit a three at a meaningless three at the buzzer.
Going to the Bench... The Pioneers sent in all 13 dressed players in the 72-33 victory over Siena, with everyone in the lineup grabbing at least one rebound. No one on the roster played more than 25 minutes as SHU looks to stay rested throughout the year.
Historic Defensive Effort... Sacred Heart tied a division I record by holding Siena to a single field goal in the first half of a 72-33 victory. The Saints managed just seven total points and went one-for-20 (5%) from the field in the opening twenty minutes. For the game Siena managed to shoot just under 20 percent (10-51). The game marked the first time in SHU's division I history the Pioneers held an opponent to under 20 percent from the floor. The previous low came December 2, 2000 in a 70-52 win over Lehigh as the Mountain Hawks shot 20.4% (11-52).
Tropical Paradise... The Pioneers traveled to the Bahamas for the 2010 Junkanoo Jam, finishing in second place. In the semifinals Sacred Heart knocked off Auburn of the SEC 65-53. The Pioneers led by as many as 30 points and picked up the program's first win over a team from one of the major conferences. Four Pioneers scored in double figures in the victory, led by Alisa Apo's 15 point and six rebound performance. Callan Taylor was named to the all-tournament team, averaging 12.5 points and seven rebounds per game in the event.
The Coaches... Ed Swanson (SHU '89) is in his 21st season as head coach at his alma mater. Swanson posts a 345-236 record in his career at Sacred Heart. His teams have a 220-117 record since joining the Division I ranks in 1999-00. Swanson was inducted in to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 and is the program's longest tenured coach and all-time leader in coaching wins (346). He has been named the NEC Coach of the Year three times and is the all-time leader in regular season NEC wins (150). Bryan Whitten (Kings '91) enters his fourth season at the helm of the Mount St. Mary's program, with a current record of 33-64. Whitten was previously a head coach at his alma mater as well as an assistant at Virginia Commonwealth. In January of last season Whitten picked up his 250th career victory with a triumph over Quinnipiac.