Three double-digit scorers, including a game-high 21 points from junior Michelle Kirk, propelled the American University women's basketball team to a hard-fought 64-51 victory at Holy Cross on Sunday afternoon. Junior Liz Leer and sophomore Raven Harris each added 15 points for the Eagles in the win.
The first few minutes of action saw back-and-forth action before Leer's third bucket of the game gave American (12-7, 5-0 Patriot League) a 16-11 advantage with 12:36 remaining in the opening half. An Ashley Yencho three-pointer from straight-away pushed the Eagles lead to seven, 20-13, midway through the first 20 minutes.
American extended its lead to nine on a pair of Kirk free throws and eventually took an 11-point advantage, 33-22, on a rebound, putback by Ebony Edwards with 53 seconds to go in the first half. The Eagles took a 35-26 advantage into intermission on the strength of 11 Kirk first-half points.
Holy Cross (5-15, 1-4 PL) came out strong in the second half, rallying to knot the score at 40 with 11:07 to play on a Meredith Ward three-pointer. The teams would trade buckets, eventually tying the score, 46-46, before the Eagles ran off eight-unanswered points to take a 54-46 lead with 6:35 to play. The run was sparked by a Leer bucket with the shot clock winding down. It was followed by a Kirk three and capped by a beautiful three-point play by Harris, knocking down a high-arcing runner in the lane as she drew contact.
In what looked like would end up being a tight game coming down the stretch, the Eagles found their rhythm from deep to take control. First, Kirk knocked down a long-range jumper to extend AU's lead to 57-48. Harris followed with the dagger, a three from the right wing to give American a 10-point lead, 60-50, with 3:04 to go. The Eagles would convert their free throws in the final few minutes and come away with the 64-51 road victory, only the second ever victory for AU at Holy Cross.
The Eagles held Holy Cross to only two field goals over the final 8:42 of the game, outscoring the Crusaders by an 18-5 margin.
Kirk's 21 points came on an efficient five-of-10 from the field. She added a game-high eight rebounds in 40 minutes of action. The 15 points for Harris sets a new career-high, which included a career-best-matching two three-pointers. She also recorded three assists and three steals. Additionally, Ohemaa Nyanin and Edwards added seven rebounds apiece for the Eagles.
Holy Cross was paced by Briana McFadden's 16 points. Ward was also in double-figures for the Crusaders with 11 points.
The Eagles held Holy Cross to 32.8 percent shooting from the floor, including only 27.3 percent (6-22) from three-point range. AU committed a season-low seven turnovers and was 15-of-19 (78.9 percent) from the free throw line.
"We are proud of our defensive effort today," remarked American Head Coach Matt Corkery. "I thought we defended consistently throughout the game and in the second half, when we needed to step up and make plays, we did that. A big key was taking care of the ball against Holy Cross' pressure and keeping our turnovers down. Anytime you can go on the road and win, especially against a quality opponent like Holy Cross, it's a good thing."
With the win, American moves to 5-0 in the Patriot League, the best start in program history. AU has won six consecutive games by an average margin of 12.8 points per game.
The Eagles will be back in action on Wednesday, January 27 as they travel to Annapolis, Md., to take on Navy. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Note: Today's nationally-televised broadcast on CBS College Sports Network will re-air on Sunday, January 25 at 2 a.m. ET and again at 2 p.m. ET.