Michelle Kirk scored a game-high 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field to lead the American University women's basketball team to a 71-59 victory at Howard on Friday night in both teams' 2009-10 season-opener.
American (1-0) got off to a slow start, falling behind 15-10 in the game's first seven-plus minutes in a contest that was played at Howard's Burr Gymnasium in Washington, D.C. A Liz Leer three-point play spurred an 8-0 Eagles' run, which gave them an 18-15 lead with 11 minutes to play in the opening half. American proceeded to open up a seven-point advantage late in the half, but a 9-0 Bison run late in the first stanza helped give Howard (0-1) a 34-33 lead heading into halftime.
The Eagles began to take control of the game in the second half, as a Kirk layup less than two minutes in gave AU a 37-36 lead. The Eagles would not trail in the rest of the contest, as AU proceeded to go on a 7-1 run, capped by a Nicole Ryan three-pointer, to take a 48-39 lead with less than 15 minutes to play.
Howard tried to get back in the game throughout the remainder of the second half, but was unable to get within five points of AU. A mini 5-0 spurt by American on a Lisa Strack three-pointer and Raven Harris bucket gave the Eagles a 58-48 lead with7:07 to play.
The Eagles put the final stamp on their victory with an 11-0 run over a three-minute span to open up a 19-point (71-52) advantage with just over two minutes to play. Howard would score the final seven points of the game to close the final margin to 12, 71-59.
Kirk, a junior forward, led the way for American with 25 points, only two points shy of her career-high, which she set last January versus Navy. The Preseason All-Patriot League selection also chipped in seven rebounds and three assists in 37 minutes of action.
Leer added 18 points for AU on 8-of-13 shooting and recorded game-highs with eight rebounds and four assists. Leer's 18 points and four helpers both matched career-highs. She has now reached the 18-point mark in six different games throughout her career. Additionally, the junior forward converted her first-career three-point field goal in the victory over Howard.
For the game, the Eagles shot 46.8 percent from the field compared to only 32.8 percent for Howard. American was six-of-15 from three-point range (40 percent), and held the Bison to two-of-14 from deep (14.2 percent).
"It was a good team effort tonight," remarked American University Head Coach Matt Corkery. "We made some adjustments at the half that were good for us. We did a better job on the boards as well. We were pleased with our offensive execution in the second half."
The Eagles will continue their three-game road swing to begin the season on Monday, November 16 at Princeton. Opening tip is set for 7 p.m.