WASHINGTON - The American University women's basketball team battled to a gritty overtime victory over Army West Point on Saturday, overcoming a nine-point halftime deficit to remain undefeated in Patriot League play, 71-63.
With Ambassador Susan Rice looking on from the bench as the day's honorary guest coach, the Eagles rose to 18-4 overall and 11-0 in the conference. The Black Knights now break even for the season at 11-11, 4-7 in the PL.
Senior Emily Kinneston came on strong in the second half, hitting all of her 19 points to lead the Eagles. Junior Cecily Carl and sophomore Katie Marenyi also contributed double-figure efforts with 16 points and 15 points, respectively.
Kinneston tied her career-high with eight assists and fell just short of her first career double-double with a team-high nine boards. Marenyi added a pair of steals, both of which she transitioned into two of the key baskets in the third and fourth quarters.
American shot 39.7 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from long-range, and added 19 assists and 37 rebounds, including a season-high 17 offensive boards.
Army was led by a pair of 20-point efforts from Janae McNeal (28 points) and Madison Hovren (21 points), who added a team-high 10 rebounds for the double-double.
The Black Knights shot 41.1 percent from the field, 27.3 percent from the perimeter, and brought down 39 boards. They are only the second team in the Patriot League to shoot above 40 percent from the field against the Eagles, and fifth overall this season.
This was eighth time this season that AU entered halftime at a deficit and the fifth time that the team was able to fight back for the win in the second half.
The Eagles had a rough start to the game, putting up only six points in the first quarter behind a late four-point effort from Marenyi and two points from Carl.
The Black Knights entered the second quarter with an 11-6 advantage, but a quick four points from Marenyi and junior Kaitlyn Lewis brought the Eagles back within one. Army took a 7-0 run to take an eight-point lead with four minutes left in the half, and a last-second jumper sent the Black Knights in the locker room with a nine-point lead - the second-largest halftime deficit for AU this season.
The third quarter started as a back-and-forth battle, with Army gaining a 12-point lead before a 9-2 run by the Eagles in the last four minutes cut the gap to four. Then, a steal from Marenyi with five seconds left on the clock put her in transition where she hit the final-second floater to bring AU within two, 41-39.
The Eagles opened the fourth quarter with a 4-0 run, courtesy of Kinneston, to take their first lead of the game at 43-41. The lead was short-lived, however, as Army responded with a quick six points of their own to retake a 47-43 lead. That lead built to eight-points with 4:33 left on the clock before a jumper from Carl and trey from Kinneston brought AU back within striking distance at 53-50.
Once again, though, it was Marenyi with the clutch basket down the stretch, as she landed her first and only three of the day to tie the game at 55-55 with 25 seconds left on the clock. With the shot clock turned off, Army had one final opportunity to retake the lead but failed to capitalize, sending the Eagles into their third overtime period of the season.
It was all AU during the five minutes of extra time, with Army taking only a brief one-point lead after a layup from McNeal in the first minute. From there, a quick four points from senior Maria Liddane and a jumper from classmate Michael Harris gave the Eagles a five-point cushion with less than two minutes on the clock. Late baskets from Carl, Marenyi, and Kinneston stretched that lead to eight by the final whistle, 71-63.
The Eagles will close their three-game home stretch on Wednesday as they host Loyola (Md.) at 7 p.m. Tickets for all AU home basketball games can be purchased here. AU students are admitted free to all home games with an AU ID.
For the latest on American University Women's Basketball, stay tuned to AUEagles.com and follow the team on Twitter @AU_WBasketball.