Junior Liz Leer scored a game-high 15 points to lead the American University women's basketball team to a 53-31 victory on Saturday afternoon in Bender Arena. The Eagles held Lafayette to 13 second-half points to pull away from the Leopards and record their eighth straight victory.
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Lafayette (4-17, 2-5 Patriot League) began the game strong, as it led for the first four-plus minutes before a pair of free throws by Leer gave American (14-7, 7-0 PL) its first advantage of the game, 11-9, with 14:45 to go in the first half. The Eagles played from ahead the rest of the opening 20 minutes, increasing their advantage to five, 17-12, on an Ohemaa Nyanin jumper with 6:47 remaining. AU extended its lead to eight on a driving, three-point play by Lisa Strack, and that was followed by a pair of Raven Harris free throws to set the halftime margin at 28-18 in favor of the Eagles. American closed the half with a 9-0 run over the final 2:32 to take control of the ballgame.
The Leopards tried to fight back, cutting the Eagles lead to six early in the second half, but American's defense proved to be too much for Lafayette to overcome for the remainder of the half. The Eagles virtually iced the game with a 10-1 run in the middle of the second half. It began with a free throw by Harris, and was followed by a Leer jumper and a Strack runner of the glass, which extended AU's advantage back to 10, 33-23. Michelle Kirk followed Strack's bucket with a deep three from the top of the arc, and a Harris steal and layup gave the Eagles a 38-23 advantage with 11:24 to go.
AU's lead remained between 12 and 15 for the next six-plus minutes before an Ashley Yencho transition layup gave the Eagles a 44-28 lead with 4:38 remaining. Leer added a three from straight-away at the 2:17 mark to extend American's margin to 17, 47-30. American took a 23-point lead, its largest of the game with less than a minute remaining before a late Lafayette free throw set the final margin at 22, 53-31. American held Lafayette to only three points over the final 7:17 of the game.
Leer's 15 points came on an efficient six-of-10 shooting from the floor. Nyanin narrowly missed her first-career double-double with an eight-point, 10-rebound effort. Harris led American with four assists, while sophomore Ebony Edwards paced the Eagles with three steals.
American held the Leopards to 31 points, which sets an American record for the fewest points allowed since 1978-79. The previous record was set on February 11, 1987, when AU held Cheyney State to 34 points in a 79-34 victory.
Despite only scoring 31 points, Lafayette's 33.3 percentage from the field (12-36) was only slightly lower than the Eagles' 35.7 percent (20-56). The Leopards were zero-for-six from three-point range and only seven-of-15 from the free throw line.
"I was proud of our defensive effort today," remarked Head Coach Matt Corkery following the game. "A big key to today's game is we took 20 more shots than they (Lafayette) did. The percentages weren't that much different, but we were able to get a lot more shots. The 14 offensive rebounds was huge."
Saturday's action will also go down in the AU history books as Kirk became the 12th American women's basketball student-athlete to reach the 1,000-career point plateau. The junior is the first to hit 1,000 career points since Chanel Hunt hit the mark during her career at American from 2001-05.
The Eagles have now completed the first half of Patriot League play and sit alone in first place at 7-0. American will have a week off until it travels to Bethlehem, Pa., to face off against defending champion Lehigh, which currently occupies second place in the conference at 5-1. Gametime on Saturday, February 6 is set for 7 p.m.