Michelle Kirk scored a game-high 21 points and Lisa Strack matched her career-best with 17, but it was not enough as the American University women’s basketball team came up on the short end of a 63-55 decision at Old Dominion in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) Wednesday evening in Norfolk, Va.
Old Dominion (19-13) jumped out to a quick 10-4 advantage before Strack knocked down a straight-away three for American (22-10) to cut the lead in half in the first four-plus minutes of the game. The Lady Monarchs, however, scored eight of the next 10 points to take an 18-9 lead with 10:12 to go in the half. AU began to find its rhythm offensively, sparking an 8-0 run on a pair of Kirk three-pointers along with a Raven Harris jumper. The spurt got the Eagles back to a one-point deficit, 18-17, and a pair of Ebony Edwards free throws kept the Old Dominion lead at 20-19 with 7:59 remaining in the half.
But that is as close as AU would get in the rest of the game, as a 13-0 Old Dominion run gave the Lady Monarchs a 33-19 advantage with 2:10 to go. The Eagles converted four late free throws to cut the halftime deficit to 11, 35-24.
Kirk started the second half strong with an opening three-point play, and later, a Strack three cut the ODU lead to seven, 37-30, a minute into the half. The Lady Monarchs’ lead remained constant between seven and 10 points for the next 11-plus minutes until a pair of Kirk free throws got the Eagles back within six, 47-41, with 7:48 to play.
AU cut the ODU lead to six two more times over the next 2:19, but the Eagles were unable to get any closer. American made one final push in the final few seconds to cut the lead to six once again on a pair of free throws by Edwards and a steal and layup by Leer, but it was not enough. Old Dominion added a late bucket and prevailed by a final score of 63-55.
Kirk’s game-best 21 points included an efficient 9-11 from the free throw line, along with three rebounds. Strack’s 17-point output came on 5-12 from the floor, including 3-5 from beyond-the-arc. She also grabbed five rebounds.
Old Dominion was paced by Tia Lewis’ 16 points and nine rebounds. Jasmine Parker added 14 points for the Lady Monarchs, which will move onto the WNIT Second Round against the winner of the Providence-Boston University matchup.
The Eagles held a considerable advantage from the free throw line (22-27 for 81.5 percent), while Old Dominion converted 11 of its 12 attempts. Additionally, AU committed five less turnovers (18) than the Lady Monarchs (23), but ultimately was doomed by a 44-12 Old Dominion advantage in points in the paint. Additionally, the Eagles were minus-10 on the glass and shot only 28.0 percent shooting from the floor. ODU recorded a 45.5 percent clip from the field in the contest.
"After a slow start, I was pleased with the way we came out and competed in the second half. We fought hard and played more aggressively," commented American Head Coach Matt Corkery. "In the end, ODU's points in the paint were too much for us to overcome."
American concludes its season with 22 wins, the second-most single-season victories in program history.
Kirk, the Patriot League Player of the Year, finishes the 2009-10 campaign with a single-season school-record 567 points. The junior has 1,165 points in her three years at American, and has moved into seventh on AU’s all-time scoring list. Kirk passed Darsi Smith, who recorded 1,164 points at AU from 1980-84, late in the contest against the Lady Monarchs.
Additionally, Liz Leer recorded two blocked shots against ODU, ending the season with a school-record 68, which breaks her record of 62 that she set in the 2008-09 campaign. The junior now has 170 career blocks, which is the new all-time AU standard. Leer should also join Kirk in the 1,000-point club early in the 2010-11 season, as she now has 970 career points.