A career-high 21 points from sophomore Raven Harris coupled with a convincing second-half performance lead the American University women's basketball team to a 68-47 victory at Lafayette on Saturday afternoon in the regular season finale. With the win, the Eagles finish Patriot League play with their best-ever conference record of 13-1 and earn a share of the regular season title with Lehigh.
American (20-8, 13-1 Patriot League) jumped out to an 8-4 lead on back-to-back three-pointers by sophomore Lisa Strack and junior Liz Leer before Lafayette (6-22, 4-10 PL) responded with an 11-0 run to take a 15-8 advantage with 13:03 to play in the first half. Harris and junior Michelle Kirk each knocked down a pair of free throws to trim the Lafayette lead to 15-12.
Throughout the majority of the opening period, the Leopards maintained a lead between three and six points, although late in the half, the Eagles finally found their rhythm on the offensive end. Sophomore Ebony Edwards knocked down a three to cut the deficit to two, and Harris hit a long-range jumper at the buzzer to give AU a 30-29 halftime lead.
The momentum from the end of the first half carried over to the start of the second stanza as Kirk scored back-to-back buckets to give the Eagles a 34-29 advantage. Lafayette rallied to tie the score at 34 before a Harris spinning runner in the lane followed by an Edwards three extended AU's margin back to five, 39-34 with 12:49 to play.
AU continued to apply the pressure as the half went along, as a Kirk three from the wing opened the Eagles' advantage to nine, 45-36, with 10:10 to go. Later, an Edwards free throw gave American a 10-point lead, 52-42, its first double-digit margin of the afternoon.
American began to wear down the Lafayette defense as the second half rolled along, as Strack converted a back-breaking three-point play to give AU a 57-44 advantage with 3:57 remaining. Harris added her own three-point play to push the margin to 17, 62-45, and the Eagles cruised down the stretch to a 68-47 victory after outscoring Lafayette, 38-18, in the second half. In fact, after the game was tied at 34 with 15:54 to play, American held a 34-13 advantage over the Leopards for the remainder of play.
Harris scored a game-high 21 points, which sets a new career high. She was 12-15 from the foul line, and added a career-best six steals. Strack and Edwards each contributed 13 points for AU, while the Patriot League leading scorer Kirk added 10 points and seven rebounds.
"We made some nice adjustments coming out of the half and picked up our defensive energy," commented American Head Coach Matt Corkery. "I felt that we were aggressive on the offensive end and that showed up in our ability to get to the foul line. Our sophomore class stepped up big with Raven, Ebony and Lisa all scoring in double figures. It was a quality win to end the regular season."
The win is the Eagles' 20th of the season, only the fourth time in program they have reached the 20-win plateau. AU also recorded 20 victories in 1985-86 and 1986-87, and set an all-time program record with a 23-7 mark in 1997-98. AU's 13-1 conference record is the best ever in program history.
Kirk has now scored 507 points this season, only the fourth Eagle to reach the 500-point mark in a campaign. The single-season scoring record is 534, set by Beth Shearer in 1987-88. The junior also moved into eighth on American's career scoring list today with 1,110 points, passing Jacqui Frazier, who recorded 1,106 points from 1979-83.
Additionally, with one blocked shot today, Leer has registered 62 blocks this season, tying her own school record, which she set last year. Leer is also the career blocks record-holder with 164 in her three years at American.
The Eagles finish the regular season with an identical PL record as Lehigh at 13-1, but will most likely enter the Patriot League Tournament as the #2 seed (due to tiebreaking procedures). This scenario would earn American a rematch with #7 Lafayette in the quarterfinals, which will be played on Saturday, March 6 at Holy Cross' Hart Center. The final seedings, matchups and game times will be announced on Monday. Click here for Patriot League Tournament ticket information.