Michelle Kirk scored a game-high 18 points and Liz Leer chipped in 15 as the American University women's basketball team defeated Lafayette, 77-49, in the Patriot League Tournament Quarterfinals on Saturday. The second-seeded Eagles will play #3 Navy in the semifinals on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at Holy Cross' Hart Center in Worcester, Mass.
American (21-8, 13-1 Patriot League) came out firing on all cylinders with opening buckets by Leer, Ohemaa Nyanin and Leer again to take a quick 6-0 lead. After a Raven Harris runner in the lane, Kirk then found her range, knocking down three consecutive three-point jumpers to give AU a 17-6 lead with 14:36 to play in the first half.
The Eagles continued to apply the pressure, adding onto Kirk's hot hand with a 9-0 run to take a commanding 26-8 advantage with 10:44 remaining. Leer, Nyanin and Lisa Strack knocked down baskets during the stretch.
Seventh-seeded Lafayette (6-23, 4-10 PL) cut the deficit to 15 before another Kirk three extended the AU advantage back to 18, 33-15. Leer followed it up with a basket to push the Eagles lead to 35-15, forcing the Leopards into a second early timeout. The Eagles took a 42-22 lead into halftime on the strength of 16 Kirk points. She was a perfect 5-5 from the floor in the half, including four-of-four from beyond-the-arc.
The two squads played even basketball for the first 10 minutes of the second half before the Eagles eventually opened up a 25-point advantage, 61-36, with 8:14 to go on a layup by Strack. AU took its largest lead of the game, 70-41, with four minutes remaining on a Harris free throw, and coasted down the stretch to a 77-49 victory.
Kirk's 18-point effort was highly efficient, as it came on only seven total shot attempts from the floor. She finished the game 4-5 from three-point range. The Patriot League Player of the Year has now scored 519 points this season, moving her into third on AU's single-season scoring list, only 15 points shy of the program record.
Leer recorded 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots, while Strack added 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. Harris was also in double-figures for the Eagles with 12 points, while adding four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Additionally, Nyanin grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for AU.
Lafayette was led by Lauren Jackson, who scored a team-high 10 points off the bench.
American shot 49.1 percent from the field (27-55) while holding Lafayette to 39.1 percent shooting (18-46). The Eagles held a 38-24 advantage on the glass.
"We had a great energy level to begin the game. That was great to see," said American Head Coach Matt Corkery. "Our bench played really well. They came in and gave us a really good spark. No matter who was in the game, I thought we played consistent basketball."
Today's win is American's 21st of the season, which is the second most in program history. The Eagles recorded a 23-7 mark in the 1997-98 campaign, and have accumulated 20 wins two other times in school history.
AU will return to action in Worcester, Mass., on Sunday, March 7 in the Patriot League Tournament Semifinals against #3 Navy, which defeated #6 Colgate on Saturday evening. Game time is slated for 3:30 p.m.