WASHINGTON - The 2017-18 American University women's basketball team set themselves apart in the history books on Saturday, as the Eagles clinched their 16th consecutive win of the season for a new program record. The 74-66 victory over Lafayette was particularly meaningful for the Eagles, as they also celebrated the careers of the team's six seniors - Kate Bond, Io Chaney, Michael Harris, Asha Henley, Emily Kinneston and Maria Liddane.
American enters the final three games of regular season play with a perfect 15-0 record in the conference, 22-4 overall, while the Leopards fall to 9-16 overall and 5-10 in the league.
Junior Cecily Carl led the team with her second consecutive 22-point performance, shooting 8-for-13 from the field and 4-for-6 from three-point range. Senior Emily Kinneston also followed close behind with 20 points, including 12 during the fourth quarter. Kinneston filled out the rest of the stat sheet with team-highs in rebounds (4), assists (8), steals (6), and blocks (1).
Senior Maria Liddane joined Carl and Kinneston in double-figures with 10 points after shooting a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
The Eagles shot 44.6 percent from the field (25-for-56), 31.3 percent from the perimeter (5-for-16), and 76.0 percent from the line (19-for-25). For the second time this year, Lafayette held AU to one of its lowest efforts of the season on the boards with 23 rebounds.
The Leopards were led by the 21-point effort of Alexis Santarelli, who shot 8-for-10 from the field and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe. Natalie Kucowski, who came into the game averaging a team-high 11.7 ppg, was held to only nine points while bringing down a game-high nine boards.
Once again, Lafayette put up one of its best shooting percentages of the season against the Eagles with 52.3 percent from the field (23-for-44). The Leopards shot a season-high 50.0 percent (25-for-50) against AU in January. They also shot 33.3 percent from the perimeter (4-for-12) and 84.2 percent from the charity stripe (16-for-19).
Both teams put up strong shooting to start the game, as the Eagles and Leopards closed the first quarter with a 21-21 draw. Carl took control of the game early, leading the team with six points off a pair of back-to-back treys in the final five minutes. Sophomore TaeKenya Cleveland closed the stanza with a three of her own, coming off the bench to tie the game with less than a minute left before the break.
A pair of layups from junior Elina Koskimies and Carl gave the Eagles their largest lead of the game yet at four points to start the second quarter. Although Lafayette would land back within one on a couple occasions throughout the quarter, a late 8-2 run from Kinneston, Liddane, and Carl to close the half put AU up by eight heading into the break.
The Eagles struggled to find their rhythm defensively in the second half, as the Leopards crept back within two before a pair of free throws from Nia Holland tied the game at 44-44 with 1:30 left in the third quarter. Another three from Carl gave the Eagles back a three-point edge, but a three-point play from Kucowski evened the game out once more at 47-47 with 12 seconds left in the stanza.
A final-second jumper from Kinneston sent AU into the break with some momentum and they carried it through into the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run to take a 54-47 lead. The Eagles built up to a brief 13-point advantage midway through the quarter, but a 9-0 run from Lafayette brought them back within striking distance at 69-65 with less than a minute left in regulation. Late fouls from the Leopards put Liddane, Kinneston, and Carl on the line where they shot 5-for-6 in the final 30 seconds to solidify their final eight-point lead at 74-66.
The Eagles will close their regular season home slate on Wednesday, Feb. 21, with an 11:30 a.m. tipoff against Holy Cross. Tickets for this and 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 Women's Basketball, stay tuned to AUEagles.com and follow the team on Twitter @AU_WBasketball.