The American University women's basketball team took Lehigh's best shot down the stretch, but AU was able to fight off the defending Patriot League champions, 69-65, in overtime on Saturday afternoon at Bender Arena. Junior Michelle Kirk led the Eagles with a career-high 32 points in the victory.
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After leading by five, 35-30, at halftime, American (8-7, 1-0) scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 12-point advantage with 16:34 to play. Raven Harris began the scoring for the Eagles during the spurt with a three-pointer, and then Kirk knocked down back-to-back buckets, which provided AU its largest lead of the game.
But Lehigh (13-3, 0-1) would not go down easily. The Mountain Hawks proceeded to run off nine-unanswered points over the next six minutes to cut the AU lead to 42-41. Lehigh would eventually take a 51-50 advantage with 5:06 to play on an Emily Gratch bucket. The lead changed hands three times over the next three-plus minutes, capped by an Ebony Edwards steal and coast-to-coast layup to give AU a 54-53 advantage with 1:42 to play. Moments later, Harris stole the ball and beat the Lehigh defense down the floor for the layup, as AU took a 56-53 lead.
Facing a three-point deficit in the final minute, Lehigh committed its seventh team foul of the half, sending Harris to the line for a one-and-one with eight seconds remaining. She missed, and after a timeout and an AU foul on the floor, Lehigh's Alex Ross knocked down a contested 25-footer with 0.2 seconds remaining to knot the score at 56 and send the game to overtime.
Lehigh seemed to have all the momentum heading to the extra period, but the Eagles proved to be resilient. AU's first field goal of the overtime session occurred on a beautiful, step-back three-pointer by Kirk, but Lehigh tied the score, 61-61 on an Alex Ross basket with 2:15 to go. Liz Leer then got in the scoring act, hitting a key baseline jumper from 17 feet, providing the Eagles a 63-61 advantage.
Following a missed Lehigh jumper, Ohemaa Nyanin grabbed an offensive rebound off a Leer miss and put in the put-back layup, opening up a 65-61 American lead with only 36 seconds to play. Prosser trimmed the AU lead to two, 65-63, but Kirk knocked down all four of her free throw attempts in the final few seconds to set the final margin at 69-65.
Kirk scored her career-best 32 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the floor, including 5-9 from three-point range and 7-7 from the charity stripe. She played all 45 minutes, which also set a career-high. The 2009-10 Preseason All-Patriot League selection is now averaging a Patriot League-leading 19.9 points per game this season, and has led the Eagles in scoring in 13 of 15 contests this season.
The trio of Edwards, Harris and Nyanin each added nine points for AU. Nyanin's nine points are a career-best, and she also grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds. Edwards filled out her stat line with seven rebounds and six assists, both of which are career-bests. The entire starting five for the Eagles recorded career-highs in minutes played, including four players with over 40 minutes of action apiece.
"I'm very proud of our team's effort today," commented American University Head Coach Matt Corkery. "It was definitely a team victory with everybody who saw the court contributing. I was really pleased with how we bounced back in overtime and with the way we played down the stretch."
The Eagles will wrap up their three-game homestand on Wednesday, January 13 against Patriot League foe Bucknell. Tip time is scheduled for 7 p.m.