Sacred Heart (15-11, 11-4 NEC) vs. Saint Francis U (13-14, 10-5 NEC)
Saturday, March 2, 2019 | 1:00 PM
Pitt Center | Fairfield, CT
FAIRFIELD, Conn. – After a pair of resounding wins last week, the Sacred Heart women's basketball team heads into its most important game thus far in the season with plenty of positive momentum. Returning home for the first time in nearly three weeks, the Pioneers prepare for a showdown with Saint Francis U on Saturday in a game that'll tip at 1 PM. In addition to Saturday's contest serving as SHU's Senior Day, the Pioneers and Red Flash are separated by just one game in the league standings and a win for either side will swing who's the presumptive favorite for the No. 2 seed in the upcoming NEC Tournament.
A win for the Pioneers is especially crucial considering the Red Flash already defeated SHU, 85-68, in Loretto in late January. If Saturday's contest ends in a SHU victory, the Pioneers would move two games clear of the Red Flash with just two games remaining in the regular season slate. Another SFU victory would clinch the regular season series sweep and the head-to-head tiebreaker, so even though the two sides would own identical conference records, the Red Flash would own the No. 2 spot in the standings by way of the two wins.
- Playoff implications are everywhere in Saturday's matchup as the Pioneers (11-4 NEC) and Red Flash (10-5 NEC) are jostling for positioning in a race behind league-leading Robert Morris (14-1 NEC). With just three games remaining in the regular season, the victor in Saturday's game immediately becomes the favorite for the No. 2 spot in the NEC standings. The all-important No. 2 seed guarantees home games in both the quarterfinal and semifinal NEC Tournament games, if the team were to advance past the quarterfinal round.
- The Pioneers rained in a season-high 14 three-pointers on the way to a season-high 82-point outburst to defeat FDU 82-63 on Monday night. The three-point shot has been falling of-late for the Pioneers, as the team is shooting 42.0 percent (58-for-138) from three-point range over the last six games (5-1 record) while averaging 71.7 PPG in that span.
- The 70-point mark has been the key number all season long for the Pioneers. A season removed from going 5-4 in games wherein the Pioneers scored 70+ points, SHU is 10-0 in similar games this season as team defense has keyed the turnaround. Cumulatively, in those 10 contests the Pioneers are outscoring opponents by 188 (+18.8 per game) and have defeated five opponents by 22 points or more.
- Saturday's game marks the Pioneers' Senior Day celebration as the five-member Class of 2019 including Katherine Haines, Erin Storck, Candice Leatherwood, Kiana Ye and Cleo Polyzou. This senior class has accumulated 66 wins across the last four seasons including a .700-win percentage (49-21 record) in NEC play. The Pioneers have advanced to at least the NEC Semifinal round in all three NEC Tournament appearances thus far in their careers including two WNIT trips in 2016 and 2017.
LAST TIME OUT (SHU 82, FDU 63)
- Backed by an offensive performance of historic proportion, the Pioneers went 28-for-46 from the floor (60.9 percent), matching their best single-game shooting percentage in the program's Division I history (since 2000-01)
- The Pioneers set a new season-high in three-pointers (14) and points (82) while the 14 makes from three is the highest total for SHU in an NEC road game in program history
- In addition, SHU made 56 percent of its three-point attempts (14-for-25) which is the best single-game mark for the Pioneers since hitting 56.5 percent back on Feb. 11, 2017 against CCSU
- Jayla Davis and Kiana Ye, two usual role players who stepped into larger roles due to injuries on the roster, both played key roles in the win as each set a new career-high point total
- Davis easily bested her previous career-high (12) with a 19-point outburst as the sophomore guard went 7-for-9 from the floor and 2-for-4 from three in a career-high 35 minutes of action that included no turnovers
- Ye, who recently returned to action for her first game of the season on Saturday at CCSU, provided a huge spark off the bench and hit 3-of-5 from three on her way to a career-high nine points
PIOS PILLING ON THE POINTS
The Pioneers put together their best offensive outing of the season in an 82-63 road win at Fairleigh Dickinson (2/25) in a game that featured several season and career highs:
- Not only did SHU set a new season-high with 14 three-pointers, but the Pioneers netted a new season-high with 82 points scored
- The Pioneers went 28-for-46 from the floor (60.9 percent), matching their best single-game shooting percentage in the program's Division I history (since 2000-01)
- The 14 made three-pointers is the highest total for SHU in an NEC road game in program history
- SHU made 56 percent of their three-point attempts (14-for-25) which stands as the best mark for the Pioneers in a game since hitting 56.5 percent back on Feb. 11, 2017 against CCSU
- Jayla Davis (19 points; 7-9 FG, 2-4 3FG) and Kiana Ye (nine points; 3-4 3FG) both set career-highs across the board in nearly every major offensive shooting statistic while Katherine Haines dished out a career-best five assists
- A 32-point third quarter is the highest-scoring period in program history for SHU, one point higher than a 31-point fourth quarter that came in a 69-59 home win over RMU on Dec. 29, 2016 (NCAA moved to quarters at start of 2015-16)
PROTECTING THE BALL
The Pioneers dished the ball well all afternoon long at FDU (2/25), recording 18 assists (tied for the second-most assists in a single-game this season). This marked the second time in the last three games that the Pioneers have recorded 18 assists. In a recent loss at LIU Brooklyn (2/18), the Pioneers committed a season-low six turnovers. That six-turnover total for SHU represents the fewest turnovers for the Pioneers in a single-game since committing five in a loss to CCSU back on March 6, 2010 (275 games ago).
HAINES HANDLING THE NEC
Katherine Haines has made easy work of the NEC this season, currently averaging 18.9 PPG (52.2 FG%, 45.9 3FG%, 77.6 FT%), 9.1 RPG and 2.2 BPG in 32.3 MPG through 15 conference games this season. Haines is currently third in the NEC in points per game, tied for third in rebounding, seventh in field goal percentage, ninth in free throw percentage, second in three-point field goal percentage, second in blocked shots and 15th in minutes played. Haines has recorded eight of her nine 20-plus scoring games in NEC play while she has recorded a double-double in over 50 percent of NEC games (8-of-15) this season. She most-recently went for 22 points (7-12 FG, 3-5 3FG, 5-7 FT), five rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 35 minutes at FDU.
RIDING THE WAVE
Over the last three games, Katherine Haines has turned in several quality performances and is averaging 23.7 PPG (62.8 FG%, 70 3FG%, 66.7 FG%), 8.7 RPG, 3.0 APG and 1.3 BPG in 34.0 MPG. Haines has scored 20+ points in all three games which matches a career-high she set earlier this season with three straight 20-plus point games. She has averaged nine field goal makes per game over the three-game stretch and has made at least two from three-point range in four straight contests.
DAVIS DOING WORK
With injuries scattered all over the lineup, Jayla Davis made the most of her uptick in minutes with a career-high 19 points (7-9 FG, 2-4 3FG) in a road win at FDU (2/25). Davis reached double figures for just the third time this season and the fourth time in her career (38 games) while setting new career-highs in points, field goals, three-point field goals, free throws and minutes. The 19-point burst also marked her first time scoring double figures since netting 10 at Hofstra (11/29), spanning a total of 16 appearances. Another huge key in Davis' progression is ball control as the sophomore is riding a streak of three games without a turnover. In the previous nine games, Davis had committed an average of 2.4 turnovers per game.
KIANA COMING UP KEY
Stepping up big with injuries hitting the Pioneer lineup hard, graduate student Kiana Ye poured in a career-high nine points (3-4 3FG) in a road win at FDU (2/25). After missing the first 24 games of the season due to injury, Ye returned to the floor with an eight-minute appearance at CCSU (2/23) and followed with her career-game against the Knights. For Ye, she bested her previous career-high of seven which came against Monmouth during the 2016-17 season while her nine-point single-game output equaled her entire 2017-18 season scoring total (nine points in 11 games).
Playing with a very limited bench unit due to injuries, Allyson Murphy stepped into a leading role in a 67-57 road win at Bryant (2/16), finishing with a game and career-high 15 points (6-10 FG). Seeing an increase in playing time due on injuries in the Pioneer backcourt, Murphy notched 11 points at CCSU (2/23) to give her double digit point total in two of the last four games. The scoring increase is of great significance for Murphy as she has scored 10+ points just five times in 68 career appearances.
LOVING THAT HOME LIVING
Sacred Heart has taken advantage of games held in the Pitt Center this season, entering the weekend with a 6-1 mark at home in NEC play. The Pioneers saw their nine-game unbeaten home winning streak against conference foes come to an end in an overtime loss to St. Francis Brooklyn (2/2). In the six SHU home victories in NEC play, the Pioneers own an average scoring margin of +12.8.
PROTECTING THE BALL
The Pioneers have valued protecting the ball and it shows in the stats as SHU leads the conference in fewest turnovers committed per game (13.9). For the season, the Pioneers are 8-5 in games in which SHU commits less than 15 turnovers and have committed fewer turnovers than their opponent in 18-of-26 games (69.2 percent) thus far in 2018-19. SHU set a new season-low with just six turnovers at LIU Brooklyn (2/18), which marks the fewest turnovers for the Pioneers in a single-game since committing five against CCSU back on March 6, 2010 (275 games ago).
KEYS TO VICTORY
A comparison between wins and losses show some clear trends in determining key factors to the W-L record of the Pioneers. Some key categories include the following:
Stat Wins (15) Losses (11)
PPG 70.9 55.0
FG% 45.0 32.2
3FG% 39.2 27.0
3FG/G 8.1 5.5
RPG 35.0 28.9
APG 15.2 9.2
IT'S A POINTS PARTY
Sacred Heart is the only team in the NEC with four players averaging double figures in scoring – Katherine Haines (16.9 PPG), Adrianne Hagood (11.8), Candice Leatherwood (11.1) and Erin Storck (10.5). For the Pioneers, if the season were to end today it'd mark the second straight season in which SHU had four players post double digit marks in points per game. The last time a team in the NEC, other than SHU, to have at least four players averaging double figures in scoring in a season came back in 2014-15 when Bryant had five players score 10+ PPG.
Team defense has told the story for the Pioneers in a majority of their victories this season as the Pioneers' loss at Saint Francis U (1/26) was the first time SHU allowed an opponent to score 80-plus points this season. The Pioneers are 7-2 this season when holding opponents to less than 60 points and have allowed less than 50 points five times.
THAT 70+ SHOW
A season removed from going 5-4 in games wherein the Pioneers scored 70+ points, SHU has gone 10-0 in similar games this season as team defense has keyed the turnaround. Cumulatively, in those 10 contests the Pioneers are outscoring opponents by 188 (+18.8 per game) and have defeated five opponents by 22 points or more.
ANOTHER FEATHER IN THE CAP
After recording the program's first-ever triple-double in a road win at St. Francis Brooklyn (1/19), Katherine Haines etched her name in the record books again and became the 20th player in program history and the 13th in Sacred Heart's Division I era (since 1999-2000) to score 1000 career points. Needing 16 points to join the 1000-point club, Haines finished with 19 against Wagner (1/21). In 99 career games, Haines has 1163 points (11.7 PPG).
PLAYING HER WAY TO THE TOP
Katherine Haines earned her second consecutive NEC Player of the Week honor on January 22nd. The honor comes on the heels of Haines posting the first triple-double in program history and becoming the 20th player in program history to eclipse 1,000 career points. Haines' second straight Player of the Week honor makes her the first player in the NEC to earn back-to-back Player of the Week awards this season. This announcement gives Haines four NEC Player of the Week awards in 2018-19, giving her the most of any player in the conference.
LEATHERWOOD LEADING THE WAY
Candice Leatherwood led the way for the Pioneers in a recent win over Fairleigh Dickinson (2/11) as she pumped in a game-high 19 points while going 7-for-13 from the floor. Leatherwood has scored 20-plus points four times this season including three through 14 NEC games. She also continues to distribute the ball well, dishing out seven assists against just one turnover against the Knights, as she owns a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in 12-of-15 NEC games thus far in 2018-19.
BUT FIRST…WE TAKE THE LEAD
Owning a halftime advantage has been a huge key to the Pioneers' success all season long, as the Pioneers are 14-2 in games SHU leads at halftime. Since the start of NEC play, the Pioneers are outscoring the opposition by a combined score of 502-407 (+95, +6.3 scoring margin per game) in the first halves of games and have led at the half in 12-of-15 conference games. In those 15 NEC games, the Pioneers' largest scoring margin by-quarter is in the first period as SHU has outscored its opponents 261-192 (+69). By comparison, the next-largest scoring margin is the third quarter, wherein SHU owns a 250-213 (+37) advantage.
HAVE A DAY DABNEY
The effort put forth by Olivia Dabney in the 76-41 home win over Mount St. Mary's cannot be understated as the sophomore went for 12 points, seven rebounds, seven steals, five assists and three blocks in 38 minutes. She either matched or tied a career-high in seven different statistical categories including field goals made (four), field goal attempts (nine), three-point field goals made (three), three-point field goal attempts (six), assists (five), blocks (three) and steals (seven). She did all of this while earning a spot in the starting lineup for the first time since a home win over Bryant back on Jan. 14 (five games ago).
TRANSFORMING HER GAME
In terms of year-to-year improvement, Olivia Dabney has made considerable strides in terms of her offensive production. As a freshman, Dabney slashed 24.5/20.9/47.7 in terms of FG%/3FG%/FT% in her rookie season only to see her improve to 42.2/43.4/75.8 thus far in 2018-19. Dabney's three-point game was an area she highlighted to improve in the offseason and the work put in is paying off as she is currently second in the NEC shooting 43.4 percent from three (23-53 3FG) just one season removed from going 14-for-67 (20.9 percent) from long range.
FLYING HIGH IN THE SECOND
Undoubtedly the key factor in the Pioneers' 67-57 road win at Bryant (2/16) came via a 30-point second quarter that saw SHU go 11-for-16 (68.8 percent) from the floor and 3-of-6 from three-point range. Several noteworthy marks from the Pioneers' 10-point road win:
- The 30-point second quarter marks the second-highest scoring period in program history, just one shy off a 31-point fourth quarter from a 69-59 home win over Robert Morris on Dec. 29, 2016 (NCAA moved to quarters at the start of the 2015-16 season)
- SHU set a new season-high for points scored in a half, netting 45 in the first half against the Bulldogs, which marks the highest-scoring half since going for 48 in a home win over St. Francis Brooklyn on March 5, 2017
- The 45-point first half is the most points scored for SHU in a half in a road game since scoring 55 back on Jan. 17, 2015 in a 101-90 win at St. Francis U
- The Pioneers turned up the defense in the third quarter, allowing the Bulldogs to score just six points, good enough for the second-fewest points the Pioneers have ever allowed in a quarter. The fewest points allowed in a frame is a four-point first quarter for Wagner back on Feb. 10, 2018
ABOUT THE WIN OVER THE MOUNT
Several noteworthy statistics littered the box score from the Pioneers' 76-41 victory over Mount St. Mary's on Feb. 9th and among them included:
- All five Pioneer starters (Haines 19, Hagood 16, Leatherwood 12, Dabney 12, Storck 10) hit double figures, marking the first time since a 68-60 overtime win over FDU on Feb. 20, 2016 (56 games ago) that SHU saw five players score 10+ points in a single-game
- SHU set new season-bests in fewest points allowed in a quarter (6 in the first period) as well as the fewest points allowed in a half all season (prev. low 19 vs Bryant, Jan. 14th)
- The SHU defense completely locked down what was the second-highest scoring offense in NEC play, holding Mount St. Mary's to their lowest point total ever in an NEC game
- The 41 points scored for the Mountaineers marked the fewest points SHU has allowed to an opponent since a 61-39 victory over CCSU on Feb. 25, 2013 (181 games ago)
- The 35-point margin-of-victory is the largest win for the Pioneers in an NEC game since an 81-45 victory over FDU on Dec. 6, 2008 (188 games ago)
- Five different Pioneers hit a three-pointer, combining to go 13-for-26 (50 3G%) which marks a new season-high for SHU and the most made triples in a game since hitting 16 in a win over St. Francis Brooklyn on March 5, 2017 (53 games ago)
- Dabney's terrific all-around effort is one of the better individual outings in quite some time as her seven steals are the most for a Pioneer in a single-game since Ericka Norman had 10 in a game at Stony Brook on Jan. 4, 2012 (192 games ago)
DOMINATING THE SEAHAWKS
- The 72-64 win over Wagner marked the 11th straight win for Sacred Heart over the Seahawks (last loss 79-70 at Wagner 1/13/14)
- The Pioneers upped their home winning streak against the Seahawks to 17 straight games
- The only defeat SHU suffered to Wagner at home came in a 74-44 loss to the Seahawks on Jan. 18, 2000 which was the Pioneers' first season at the Div. I level
HAINES TRIPLE-DOUBLE POWERS PIONEERS PAST SAINT FRANCIS BROOKLYN 68-66
- SHU earned its fifth Northeast Conference victory last Saturday as the Pioneers prevailed in the final seconds over St. Francis Brooklyn by a final score of 68-66
- Katherine Haines led the Pioneers, tallying the program's first triple-double as she registered 25 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high 11 blocks. Haines' 11 blocks tied the program-record and set the program-record for most blocks in program-history in the Div. I era
- Saint Francis U comes in with a mark of 13-14 overall and 10-5 in NEC play
- SFU won their 12th NEC Championship last season and were picked to finish second in the 2018-19 NEC Preseason Poll
- The Red Flash have struggled away from home all season long, owning a mark of 9-4 in games played in Loretto but stand 4-8 when playing on the road
- The Red Flash have more than twice as many losses in conference play (five) in 2018-19 than they had all of last season (16-2 in NEC)
- Star senior guard Jess Kovatch leads the Red Flash and the NEC in total points with 591 while averaging 21.9 points per game
- Kovatch is the reigning NEC Player of the Year while her career accolades include the all-time leading scorer in school and NEC history, one of three players in NCAA history to net 400 three-pointers (comes in with 455 made triples), is the active career leading scorer in the NCAA (2749 points) and she set an NCAA single-season record with 141 made three-pointers in 2017-18
- Despite the lofty per-game average, Kovatch is more than two points less per-game than she did in her junior campaign
- Haley Thomas is the next-highest scorer on the team (9.9 PPG) as the Red Flash only have one player (Kovatch 21.9 PPG) averaging double figures in scoring
- In terms of scoring offense, the Red Flash sit second in the conference in points per game (73.5) but last in scoring defense (76.9) by a wide margin (next-closest team allows 71.0 per game)