Sacred Heart Pioneers (17-11, 13-4 NEC) at Mount St. Mary's (14-14, 8-9 NEC)
Thursday, March 7, 2019 | 7:00 PM
Knott Arena | Emmitsburg, Md.
EMMITSBURG, Md. – Peaking at just the right time of the season, the Sacred Heart women's basketball team are owners of a four-game winning streak and stands as the hottest squad in the Northeast Conference heading into Thursday night's regular season finale at Mount St. Mary's. Already locked into the No. 2 seed for the 2019 NEC Tournament, the Pioneers (17-11, 13-4 NEC) look to continue their winning ways against the Mountaineers (14-14, 8-9 NEC) heading into the postseason next week.
Although this rare midweek conference showdown is without obvious stakes attached for the Pioneers, this game could be an NEC quarterfinal preview as the Mountaineers could finish anywhere from 5-7 in the postseason seeding depending on Thursday's results across the conference. Mount St. Mary's will be looking to put on a much better showing than in their first matchup which was entirely one-sided as SHU walked away with a dominating 76-41 victory in the Pitt Center on Feb. 9.
- SHU claims a top-two seed in the 2019 NEC Tournament for the first time since the 2016-17 season and continue their dominance in the NEC as the Pioneers have finished among the regular season among the top four teams in the conference in 14 of the last 15 seasons. In addition, SHU has advanced to the NEC Tournament in all 20 seasons since joining the NEC in 1999-00 and own the league's longest-standing postseason streak (next-closest is Bryant at seven straight).
- The Pioneers played what is quite likely their best defensive showing of the season in Monday's 54-45 victory over league-leading RMU, holding the Colonials to 17-for-63 shooting (27 percent) for the game which sets a new season-best for the SHU defense and marks the lowest field goal percentage for a Pioneer opponent in a single-game since holding Mount St. Mary's to 25 percent from the floor on March 6, 2016.
- The three-ball continues to be a huge emphasis for the Pioneers on the offensive end as SHU has hit at least eight three-pointers in five straight games. During the team's current four-game win streak, SHU is averaging 10 three-point makes per game and is hitting at a 45.5 percent clip (40-for-88).
- Katherine Haines continues to build a strong case for NEC Player of the Year as the graduate student forward claimed her league-leading fifth NEC Player of the Week award on Wednesday. Haines posted double-doubles in consecutive games last week in crucial home wins over league powers SFU and RMU. She averaged 16.5 PPG, 13 RPG and 3 APG in 37 MPG across the two-game span that included a 26-point drubbing of the Red Flash while handing the Colonials just their second conference loss of the season.
LAST TIME OUT (SHU 54, RMU 45)
- A fantastic defensive performance from the Pioneers limited the Colonials to their lowest point total in an NEC game all season as RMU shot just 27 percent (17-for-63) overall and 20 percent (6-for-30) from three-point range
- The defensive effort was strongest in the first half, limiting a RMU team that came in averaging 67.9 PPG while shooting 42 percent from the floor in NEC-only play to just 13 points on 5-for-28 (17.9 percent) shooting and 1-for-14 (7.1 percent) from three
- That 13-point total marks the fewest points RMU has scored in a half all season and stands as the fewest points allowed in a half by the Pioneers since Bryant was held to 12 in the first half of a game back on Jan. 28, 2013 (195 games ago)
- SHU held RMU scoreless for a span from the first quarter into the second that lasted a total of 12:15 as the Colonials missed 15 consecutive shots from the floor
- SHU maintained a comfortable lead for much of the game until the margin was cut to five with 2:15 remaining but Candice Leatherwood followed with a huge three-point make that stretched the lead back up to eight and put the game away for the Pioneers
CONTINUED DOMINANCE IN THE NEC
SHU's 20-year run in the NEC is quite impressive considering the Pioneers have advanced to the NEC Tournament every season since joining the NCAA Division I ranks in 1999-00. Across 20 seasons in the NEC, the Pioneers have never owned a losing record in NEC home games and have compiled a cumulative 154-26 (.856 win percentage) home record in conference regular season games since 1999-00. In addition, the Pioneers are 251-98 (.719) in NEC regular season play and have never finished with a win percentage below .500 in league play across 20 NEC seasons. SHU has won three NEC conference titles (2005-06, 2008-09, 2011-12) and advanced to the WNIT three times (2012-13, 2015-16, 2016-17).
NEW INJURIES…NO PROBLEM
Despite injuries suffered by key figures Olivia Dabney (missed last six games) and Adrianne Hagood (missed last four games), the Pioneers have rallied and reeled off a four-game win streak and are winners of five out of the last six with key wins coming over Saint Francis U and Robert Morris. An improbable run, often with the Pioneers employing a six-player rotation, SHU is excelling during the four-game win streak averaging 71.5 PPG (48.3 FG%, 45.5 3FG%) while outscoring opponents by an incredible +20.3 margin.
DEFENSIVE DOMINATION OVER RMU
In one of the Pioneers' top defensive performances in recent memory, SHU handed Robert Morris just its second league loss of the year in a 54-45 victory from the Pitt Center (3/4). Several noteworthy stats coming from this nine-point win included:
- SHU limited RMU to just 13 points on 5-for-28 (17.9 percent) shooting and 1-for-14 (7.1 percent) from three in the first half. The 13-point total marks the fewest points RMU has scored in any half all season while also standing as the fewest points allowed in a half by the Pioneers since Bryant was held to 12 in the first half of a game back on Jan. 28, 2013 (195 games ago)
- The Pioneers set the tone right from the jump, holding the Colonials scoreless for 12:15 (0-for-15 shooting during that span) and to just four points in the first quarter alone. The four points allowed for SHU marks a new program record for fewest points allowed in a single-quarter, besting the previous low mark of six which had been done seven times including twice this season
- The Pioneers held RMU to 27 percent shooting (17-for-63) for the game, which sets a new season-best for the SHU defense in terms of field goal percentage defense while marking the lowest shooting percentage for a Pioneer opponent in a single-game since holding Mount St. Mary's to 25 percent shooting on March 6, 2016
RED FLASH LIMITED
Always a consistent NEC contender, Saint Francis U was significantly limited by the Pioneers in a 77-51 SHU home win (3/2). The 26-point margin-of-victory is the biggest loss suffered by the Red Flash since falling to the Pioneers by 29 points back on Jan. 16, 2012. In addition, the 51 points for SFU is the fewest single-game total for the Red Flash in an NEC game since scoring 43 at Robert Morris on Feb. 29, 2016.
Playing with a very limited bench unit due to injuries, Allyson Murphy stepped into a leading role in a 77-51 win over Saint Francis U (3/2) as she pumped in a career-high 16 points (7-14 FG) while playing all 40 minutes for the first time in her career. Seeing an increase in playing time due on injuries in the Pioneer backcourt, Murphy notched 15 points at Bryant (2/16) and 11 points at CCSU (2/23) to give her double digit point total in three of the last six games.
SIEZING THE OPPORTUNITY
Utilizing a very limited bench due to multiple injuries for key contributors, Allyson Murphy has certainly made the most of her opportunity as she has scored 54 of her 135 points (40 percent) for the season over the last six games as she is averaging 9.0 PPG in that stretch. A significant increase in scoring, Murphy averaged 3.7 PPG through the first 22 games of the season.
PROTECTING THE BALL
The Pioneers dished the ball well all afternoon long against SFU (3/2), matching a season-high with 20 assists against just 12 turnovers. This marked the third time in the last four games that the Pioneers have recorded at least 18 assists, well above their season average of 12.9 per game. 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 18.6 PPG (51.5 FG%, 43.5 3FG%, 77.8 FT%), 9.5 RPG and 1.9 BPG in 32.8 MPG through 17 conference games this season. Haines is currently third in the NEC in points per game, third in rebounding, eighth in field goal percentage, seventh in free throw percentage, second in three-point field goal percentage, tied for second in blocked shots and tied for 12th 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 well over 50 percent of NEC games (10-of-17) this season. She most-recently notched her 13th double-double of the season with 15 points, 11 rebounds and two assists against RMU (3/4).
RIDING THE WAVE
Over the last five games, Katherine Haines has turned in several quality performances and is averaging 20.8 PPG (56.3 FG%, 52.6 3FG%, 70.0 FT%), 10.4 RPG and 3.0 APG in 35.2 MPG. Haines matched her career-high with 20-plus points in three straight games while she has three double-doubles in the recent span. She has averaged just over eight field goal makes per game over the five-game stretch and has increased her three-point production drastically with 10 makes from behind the arc (15 three-pointers in her first 20 games of the season).
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 has committed just one turnover over the last four games.
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) and added eight points on Senior Day against SFU (3/2). 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).
LOVING THAT HOME LIVING
Sacred Heart has taken advantage of games held in the Pitt Center this season, wrapping up the regular season conference slate with an 8-1 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 eight SHU home victories in NEC play, the Pioneers own an average scoring margin of +14.0.
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 9-5 in games in which SHU commits less than 15 turnovers and have committed fewer turnovers than their opponent in 19-of-28 games (67.9 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 (17) Losses (11)
PPG 70.2 55.0
FG% 45.2 32.2
3FG% 39.3 27.0
3FG/G 8.2 5.5
RPG 35.3 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 (11.4) and Erin Storck (10.6). 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 9-2 this season when holding opponents to less than 60 points and have allowed less than 50 points six times (6-0 record in those games).
THAT 70+ SHOW
A season removed from going 5-4 in games wherein the Pioneers scored 70+ points, SHU has gone 11-0 in similar games this season as team defense has keyed the turnaround. Cumulatively, in those 11 contests the Pioneers are outscoring opponents by 214 (+19.5 per game) and have defeated six 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 1999-00) to score 1000 career points. Needing 16 points to join the 1000-point club, Haines finished with 19 against Wagner (1/21). In 101 career games, Haines has 1196 points (11.8 PPG) and is currently 13th all-time in scoring at SHU.
PLAYING HER WAY TO THE TOP
Katherine Haines was named NEC Co-Player of the Week on Wednesday, earning her league-leading fifth NEC Player of the Week honor this season. The honor comes on the heels of another dominant week, posting consecutive double-doubles in impressive victories over league powers Saint Francis U and Robert Morris. Her week started with 18 points (8-16 FG), 15 rebound and four assists as the Pioneers handed the Red Flash their biggest loss in NEC play since the 2012-13 season. Haines' 15 rebounds matched a season-high while her four-assist total is her second-highest single-game total on the season. She continued her strong play with 15 points and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes as she controlled in interior to take down Robert Morris' top-ranked NEC scoring defense. Her 13th double-double of the season redeems a road loss suffered by the Pioneers at RMU in late January that saw Haines finish with seven points for her lone non-double-digit point total in NEC play this season.
LEATHERWOOD LEADING THE WAY
Candice Leatherwood led the way for the Pioneers in a recent win over Robert Morris (3/4) as she pumped in a game-high 15 points while going 3-for-6 from the three-point line. Leatherwood has scored 20-plus points four times this season including three through 16 NEC games. She also continues to distribute the ball well as she owns a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in 13-of-17 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 16-2 in games SHU leads at halftime. Since the start of NEC play, the Pioneers are outscoring the opposition by a combined score of 578-451 (+127, +7.5 scoring margin per game) in the first halves of games and have led at the half in 14-of-17 conference games. In those 17 NEC games, the Pioneers' largest scoring margin by-quarter is in the first period as SHU has outscored its opponents 294-209 (+85). By comparison, the next-largest scoring margin is the second quarter, wherein SHU owns a 284-242 (+42) 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.
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)
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
- Mount St. Mary's comes in with an overall mark of 14-14 and stand 8-9 in the NEC
- Depending on the results throughout the conference on Thursday, the Mountaineers could be seeded anywhere from 5-7 for the 2019 NEC Tournament and could be a quarterfinal opponent for the No. 2 seeded Pioneers
- A solid all-around squad, the Mountaineers sit sixth in NEC-only games in scoring offense (65.7 PPG) and fourth in scoring defense (65.9 points allowed per game)
- Mount St. Mary's has struggled from the floor in conference games, shooting 37.1 percent overall which ranks ninth out of 10 teams but defensively have been solid with a 39.8 field goal percentage defense (4th best in NEC)
- Largely an isolation team, the Mountaineers average just 12.3 APG in NEC play which ranks ninth in the league
- The three-point shot is a huge key for this team as they average the second-most three-point makes in the NEC (8.2 per game)
- Juliette Lawless is one of the top guards in the conference, entering Thursday's contest averaging 16.3 PPG (5th NEC) on an impressive 49.0 percent shooting from the floor (8th NEC) to go along with 3.2 APG (7th NEC) and a 39.8 percent clip from three-point range (5th NEC)
- Michaela Harrison (13.2 PPG, 10th NEC) is among the best freshmen in the conference as she combines with Lawless to present a very formidable backcourt duo
- Rebecca Lee (7.5 RPG, 51.1 FG%, 1.0 BPG) controls the interior for the Mountaineers