Pioneers Cruise Past Mount St. Mary’s in NEC Opener, 76-51

Pioneers Cruise Past Mount St. Mary’s in NEC Opener, 76-51

Fairfield, CT – Callan Taylor (Overland Park/KS) poured in 21 points, 15 in the first half, as the Sacred Heart women's basketball team kicked-off the NEC portion of their schedule with a convincing victory over the Mount Monday night.  Morgan Merriman (Seattle, WA) tied a career-high with 12 points and added eight rebounds while Alisa Apo (Freehold, NJ) chipped in 11 points.  For the second straight game all 13 dressed players on the SHU bench saw action and no Pioneer played more than 30 minutes.

 Sacred Heart (6-4, 1-0 NEC) started slowly on offense, scoring just four points in the opening five minutes, all from Merriman.  The Pioneer defense kept the game tight early by forcing five turnovers and not allowing a Mountaineer field goal in the opening 5:25 of the first half.  Freshman Ericka Norman (Chino Hills, CA) played especially well on the defensive end, finishing the game with four steals.  Taylor took over the offense and tallied 13 of the Pioneers first 19 points as SHU jumped out to a 19-13 lead.

"This was a big game for us, it's great to get off on the right foot and get a win in the conference opener," commented Merriman. 

 Mount St. Mary's (1-9, 0-1 NEC) saw its losing streak extend to seven games and remain winless in the Pitt Center.  Kelly Guerriero drilled a three to even the score at 11-11 but a 14-2 Sacred Heart run opened up the game.  Apo capped off the run with a steal on the defensive end and went the length of the floor, finishing a fast break layup.  Kiley Evans (Cazenovia, NY) grabbed an offensive rebound with one second remaining in the half and beat the buzzer with a lay-in to give SHU a 37-24 advantage at halftime.

The Pioneers shot 43.8 percent (14-32) in the opening twenty minutes while the Mountaineers posted a 40.9 (9-22) percent mark from the floor.  SHU was slightly better from beyond the arc in the first half, shooting 36 percent compared to 27 percent for the Mount.  Taylor's 15 points in the opening half were better than any three Mount players combined.

 Sacred Heart exploded out of the locker room with an 11-0 run to start the second half behind six points from Taylor, a trey off the hand of Apo, and a layup from Merriman.  The Mountaineers went without a field goal for the first seven minutes of the half as SHU increased the margin to 55-30.  During that stretch Maggie Cosgrove (Andover, MA) buried a trey and Norman finished a three-point play at the rim. 

Norman led the Pioneers with eight points off the bench while Alexis Campbell (Ashburn, VA) followed close behind with six.  Markie Schmidt (Elkhorn, WI) was extremely efficient in her three minutes of action, grabbing four rebounds and sinking a layup for two points.  Enjoli Bland (Queen Creek, AZ) made a free throw for her first collegiate point and also had a pair of rebounds. 

 Sacred Heart held the edge in every statistical category including a 43-28 advantage on the boards and forced 22 Mount turnovers.  The Pioneers shot a season high 86 percent from the free throw line and went 14-of-15 in the final twenty minutes.  Taylor, who entered the game third in the NEC in field goal percentage, led SHU with 7-of-8 from the floor as Sacred Heart finished the game 26-57 (45.6%) from the floor.

"This game was very important to us, you have to protect your home court in conference play," said head coach Ed Swanson.  "We want to put ourselves in a situation where every game is meaningful and we're playing for first place at the end of the season."

The Sacred Heart women's basketball team returns to action with a non-conference road tilt against Harvard Wednesday afternoon.