The American University women's basketball team used a late 10-0 run to pull away from Holy Cross and register a 70-61 victory on Saturday afternoon at Bender Arena. Michelle Kirk and Lisa Strack led the Eagles with 17 point apiece in the win.
American (18-8, 11-1 Patriot League) began strong, as Liz Leer and Strack knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to give the Eagles a 10-4 lead with 16:16 to go in the first half. Holy Cross (8-19, 4-8 PL) was quickly able to settle down and the rest of the first half turned into a defensive battle. The Crusaders were able to take their first advantage, 16-15, with 6:43 remaining in the opening half before an Ebony Edwards layup gave AU a 17-16 lead. The margin would remain tight throughout the rest of the half, although the Eagles took a two-point lead, 23-21, into intermission following a Leer rebound and putback layup with 12 seconds remaining.
Both offenses picked up the pace at the start of the second half as the game remained tight over the first few minutes. With AU leading 35-34 at the 14:37 mark, Strack scored back-to-back buckets, the latter a three-pointer, to extend American's advantage to 40-34. Kirk followed it up with a three to cap an 8-0 run, giving the Eagles a 43-34 lead with 12:37 to go.
American extend its margin to 10, 46-36, on a three-point play by Strack, although the Crusaders refused to go away easily. A 9-2 Holy Cross spurt cut American's lead to two, 52-50, with 6:58 to play. Over the next five minutes, AU's lead remained between one and four points.
With the Eagles leading 60-59 with less than two minutes to go, Strack knocked down the biggest shot of the ballgame, a three from the corner to open up a four-point margin, 63-59, with 1:20 remaining. After a Holy Cross turnover, Raven Harris hit a pair of free throws to give AU a 65-59 lead with 1:05 on the clock. Edwards then came up with a game-clinching steal, which was followed by two more successful Harris free throws to open up a 67-59 advantage with 45 seconds to go. Strack and Kirk each added a free throw to cap the 10-0 AU run over a 1:16 span, and the Eagles end up winning by a 70-61 final score.
Strack's 17 points set a new career-high, which came on 6-10 shooting from the floor. She added five rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Kirk grabbed four rebounds along with her 17 points. Leer chipped in 11 points for AU on 6-10 shooting, along with seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals. Edwards had nine points, three rebounds and three assists while Harris recorded eight points, six assists and three rebounds.
Holy Cross had four double-digit scorers, led by Amy Lepley's 15 points. Briana McFadden had 12, while Bethany O'Dell and Tayana Carper each recorded 11 points.
American (46.0 percent) and Holy Cross (45.3 percent) shot nearly identical clips from the field with both teams shooting over 55 percent in the second half after struggling in the opening 20 minutes. The Eagles held advantages from three-point range and the free-throw line, shooting 41.2 percent (7-17) and 70.8 percent (17-24), respectively.
"I think we were more aggressive off the dribble [in the second half] and we really put a focus on trying to get the ball in the lane off the bounce," remarked Head Coach Matt Corkery in his postgame press conference. "We changed what we were running offensively to try to create that...I think good offense happens inside-out...and we did a better job of that in the second half."
With the win, the Eagles are now 11-1 in Patriot League play, which matches a program record for most conference wins in a single-season. In 1997 and 1998, the Eagles went 11-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Additionally, in 2008, AU won the Patriot League regular season title with an 11-3 conference mark.
The Eagles will shoot for their record-setting 12th conference victory when they host Navy on Wednesday, February 24 at 7 p.m. Prior to the game, AU's two senior student-athletes - Ohemaa Nyanin and Nicole Ryan - will be honored in a senior day ceremony.