The American University women's basketball team travelled to Lewisburg, Pa., on Wednesday evening, claiming a 53-49 victory over host Bucknell. Junior Liz Leer led the Eagles with 12 first-half points while classmate Michelle Kirk found her rhythm in the second half, exploding for 17 points in the final 20 minutes to lead AU to its ninth victory in its last 10 games.
After an initial Bucknell (7-15, 3-6 Patriot League) basket to open the game, American (15-8, 8-1 PL) ran off 12 consecutive points to take a 12-2 lead. Leer had six points during the stretch, which was capped on a beautiful Kirk pass to Stephanie Anya for the layup. The Bison responded with seven straight points to get the margin back to three, 12-9, with 11:15 to play in the first half.
Leer would break the Bucknell run with a layup off a pass from Kirk, and it was followed by a Raven Harris steal and coast-to-coast bucket to give the Eagles a 16-9 advantage. AU regained a 10-point lead, 24-14, on an Ohemaa Nyanin rebound and putback layup. The Eagles took a 26-20 halftime lead on the strength of 12 first-half points by Leer.
Kirk found her rhythm at the start of the second half, scoring AU's first five points, including a three-pointer, to give the Eagles a 31-21 advantage. Kirk followed with a transition three-point play off a feed from Lisa Strack to open up a 14-point lead, 36-22, with 18:10 to play.
But Bucknell was able to slowly claw its way back into the contest thanks to a prolonged 21-9 run over a 12-plus minute span. With only a two-point lead and all the momentum working against AU, Kirk hit a clutch fade-away jumper to extend the advantage back to four with 5:31 to play.
A Kirk free throw extended the American advantage to 48-45 with 4:04 remaining, and both offenses went cold over the next three minutes as the score remained the same as the game hit the one minute mark. Kirk was again up to the challenge for the Eagles, hitting an almost identical fade-away jumper in the lane, this time with the shot clock winding down. The bucket gave the Eagles a 50-45 lead with 55 seconds to play. American sealed the victory at the free throw line, as Harris knocked down a pair on a one-and-one with 24.9 seconds remaining to regain the five point margin.
Kirk led the Eagles with 19 points, 17 of which came in the second half. The junior scored eight of AU's final 10 points in the game. She was eight-of-11 from the free throw line.
Leer was also highly effective for the Eagles, as she added 16 points while also grabbing five rebounds and recording three blocks. Nyanin was a force inside for AU, finishing with eight points and eight rebounds. Harris also played a good all-around game for American with six points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Bucknell was led by Trisha Krewson's 18 points. Morgan Wrightson was also in double digits with 11 points off the bench for the Bison.
The two squads shot nearly identical clips from the floor, as AU was 20-52 (38.5 percent) compared to 19-52 (36.5 percent) for Bucknell. American turned the ball over only nine times while forcing 20 Bucknell giveaways, although the Bison held a 42-27 advantage in rebounding.
"I was proud of the way we stepped up and made plays late in the game on both ends of the floor," said American Head Coach Matt Corkery. "We hit some big free throws down the stretch and got some critical stops defensively when we needed them. The rebounding differential was disappointing, but that's a credit to Bucknell. They are a physical team and really played well."
The Eagles will return to action on Saturday, February 13 when they host Colgate at 2 p.m. at Bender Arena.