The St. Lawrence University women's basketball team never trailed in an impressive Liberty League clinching victory on Friday night, as the Saints defeated Vassar College 75-66 in the Burkman Gymnasium. The Saints, who were led by Kelly Legg's season-high 24 points, earned the No. 1 seed in next week's conference tournament.
St. Lawrence (17-7, 13-2) had four players in double-figures on Friday, as Allison Cady and Kara McDuffee each had 19 points, Cassie St. Hilaire had 10 and Legg's 24 moved her into second place on the University's all-time scoring list with 1,356 career points. McDuffee closed with a double-double as she matched her career-high with 17 rebounds. Meanwhile, Vassar (19-5, 12-3) saw a three-game win streak come to an end despite a game-high 27 points from standout guard Cydni Matsuoka.
"It was a great college basketball game between two good teams and we both played well. Vassar just kept making baskets and getting offensive rebounds, but we kept coming back with answers too," said St. Lawrence head coach Dan Roiger, whose team has won either the league's regular season or tournament title each of the last four years. "I could not be more proud of the effort and intensity we showed tonight."
St. Lawrence finished with statistical edges in shooting (41%-38%), three pointers (9-2), rebounds (45-38), assists (21-4) and blocks (5-4). Though the Saints committed 11 turnovers, they were able to keep Vassar's interior threat Hannah Senftleber to only seven points on 2-of-19 shooting from the floor.
The Saints, who hosted Faculty Recognition Night and invited members of the St. Lawrence faculty to attend the contest, came out firing to build a 19-8 lead behind Legg, who finished with 18 points in the first half. However, the Brewers responded with a healthy dose of Matsuoka, who knocked down jumper after jumper to pull her team back within four at 24-20 on a 12-5 run.
St. Lawrence held a comfortable lead throughout most of the final 9:00 minutes of the half, growing the lead to 11 with 1:33 left at 40-29. Nyah Berg and Matsuoka would cap the scoring for Vassar, cutting the deficit to 40-33 at intermission. Legg finished 6-for-11 including 3-for-5 from behind the arc in the half to give her team the cushion.
Vassar threatened to make it a one-possession game after a jumper by Berg made it 48-44 with 13:45 to play. However, Cady shut down the visitor's momentum with five straight points, anchoring an 11-0 run capped by a three pointer from the Whitesboro, NY native for a game-high 15 point advantage, 59-44.
The Brewers would make one last push, as Caitlin Drakeley hit a jumper then followed a three from Matsuoka with a pair of free throws to pull the visitors back to within five at 66-61 with 2:12 remaining in regulation. However, senior captain Cassie St. Hilaire delivered the knockout blow, a three pointer with 1:25 left to push the lead back to eight, 69-61. Vassar would get no closer, as the Saints pulled away for the 75-66 win.
"It was really fun to see our team step up in an important game. As a coach I felt like they were mentally ready to play, but until the ball is in the air you never know how they will respond to a must-win situation," added Coach Roiger. "I saw them rise to the challenge and play intense yet relaxed, and it was fun to see the maturity and composure we exhibited."
Matsuoka had 15 points in the second half, while Cady led the way for the Saints with 12. The Saints finished with a 26-18 edge in points in the paint and a 16-9 lead in second chance points.
St. Lawrence will host Bard tomorrow, Saturday, February 22 as the team celebrates its "Senior Day." They will then host the RIT Tigers on Wednesday, February 26 at 7:00pm in the Liberty League Semifinals. Vassar will play William Smith in the semifinals, though the Brewers need a win over Clarkson tomorrow to earn home-court advantage.