Sacred Heart Heads to Monmouth for Monday Night Showdown
The Storyline... The Sacred Heart women's basketball team returns to New Jersey for the second time in four days as they take on Northeast Conference rival Monmouth Monday night. The Pioneers have won six of their last seven and are a perfect 3-0 early in the league season. Ten SHU players scored as Sacred Heart cruised to a 65-39 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson last time out. In each of the last two games the SHU defense as forced at least 20 turnovers, including a season high 28 miscues by Wagner. The Pioneers are 3-2 on the road this season but have won three straight away from Fairfield, CT. Monmouth is 7-2 at home in 2010-11 but dropped a 60-57 decision to Quinipiac at "The MAC" Saturday afternoon. Earlier this season the Hawks rattled off seven straight wins, including victories over Central Connecticut and James Madison.
Series... The Pioneers own a 16-8 all-time record versus Monmouth. Sacred Heart has won eight of the last ten meetings with the Hawks while the two teams split last season's meetings. SHU fell on the road to Monmouth 65-58 in February while earning a 60-45 victory in the Pitt Center over the Hawks last January.
Scouting the Hawks... Monmouth's 8-2 start to the 2010-11 season is the best in program history. The Hawks return 99% percent of their offense from last year's squad, which was the fourth seed in the 2010 NEC tournament. Alysha Womack leads the Monmouth offense with 14.6 points per game. Abby Martin is the squad's best rebounder with 7.3 boards per game. The Hawks are outscoring opponents by a NEC best 5.0 margin and hold a 3.4 rebounds per game advantage so far this season.
Balanced Scoring... Ten Pioneers scored as SHU posted a 26 point victory over Fairleigh Dickinson. Senior Maureen Reilly tied a career high with eight points in the win over the Knights. The win featured six players notching at least seven points as SHU shot over 40 percent from the field, a mark they are 9-0 when reaching this season.
Taylor "Doubles" Up... Junior Callan Taylor has recorded two consecutive double-doubles and has four total in 2010-11. Taylor leads the Pioneers with 15.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. She ranks third in the NEC in scoring and is averaging 15.7 points and 9.7 rebounds against league opponents.
Forcing Turnovers... Sacred Heart has showcased a swarming defense this season, forcing at least 20 turnovers seven times this season. The Pioneers forced a season best 28 turnovers against Wagner and followed that performance by forcing 23 Fairleigh Dickinson miscues the next time out. Freshman Ericka Norman has improved each game this year and leads Sacred Heart with 23 steals in 2010-11.
The Coaches... Ed Swanson (SHU '89) is in his 21st season as head coach at his alma mater. Swanson posts a 350-237 record in his career at Sacred Heart. His teams have a 223-118 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 (350). He has been named the NEC Coach of the Year three times and is the all-time leader in regular season NEC wins (153). Stephanie Gaitley (Villanova '82)enters her 25th year as a collegiate head coach this season, directed the Hawks, who a year ago returned a Division-I low 13.8% of their scoring, to a 16-14 record and the fourth seed in the 2010 Northeast Conference Tournament. Gaitley picked up her 450th career victory earlier this season in the Hawks New Year's eve victory over Binghamton.