The St. Lawrence University women's basketball team outscored RIT 40-28 in the second half, surging to a 65-52 victory in the Burkman Gymnasium to advance to the 2014 Liberty League championship game. Kara McDuffee and Kelly Legg combined for 26 points in the second half as both players finished with double-doubles in the win.
St. Lawrence improves to 19-7 on the year and will look to defend its conference win at 3:00pm on Saturday against Vassar College, who defeated William Smith. RIT ends its season with a 14-12 mark.
"The goal was to advance. It wasn't a pretty game for us, but the third time against a team in the last four weeks tends to look like that," said St. Lawrence head coach Dan Roiger. "RIT presents some match-up problems for us, but we were able to fight off the challenge. I thought we played outstanding defense all night long, and though we didn't rebound well in the first 30 minutes, we had a strong finish on the glass that allowed us to get some separation. We held two of the best scorers in our league to 5-for-27 from the floor – that was a team effort and won the game for us."
McDuffee led all scorers with 18 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and Legg chipped in 12 points and 12 boards. Lauren Quattrocchi and Cassie St. Hilaire each had 10 points, while Ellie Gonyeau chipped in seven points, two rebounds and two assists off the bench. After struggling in the first half, the Scarlet and Brown shot 40% from the floor and made four threes in the second half to put the game out of reach.
RIT was led by Kayla Wheeler's 13 points, while leading scorers Ashlynn Palmitesso and Courtney Tennant scored 11 and nine, respectively. The Tigers managed only 18-for-63 (29%) from the floor including 3-for-20 and were hurt by 29 personal fouls.
Neither team had a lead larger than three points in the first half, though St. Lawrence managed to escape with a 25-24 advantage. The score was tied six different times, and though each squad had numerous chances to put a run together, poor shooting plagued RIT (8-for-32) while St. Lawrence committed 11 turnovers. St. Hilaire led all players with eight points while Gonyeau added seven.
RIT hung tough throughout the second half, keeping within striking distance by keeping the game within one possession much of the time. However, the Saints had an answer each time the Tigers made a push, as Quattrocchi hit a three and McDuffee converted an and-1, keeping the visitors from taking the lead.
A lay-up by Wheeler with 6:27 remaining pulled RIT within three at 44-41, but Legg delivered a clutch three from the top of the key to give St. Lawrence its largest lead at six, 47-41. That basket sparked an 8-2 run, capped by another three from Quattrocchi for a nine point lead that the Saints would not relinquish. RIT would get within five, but no closer as Legg hit another three that put the game away en route to the comfortable 65-52 win.
"Vassar is a great team. They have three of the top scorers in our league and the best player I've ever coached against in Cydni Matsuoka," said Coach Roiger. "I haven't really found a way to guard her yet. It will be a great challenge for us to compete on Saturday, but that is the way it should be in a championship game."