AU Women's Basketball Edged by James Madison, 61-59, in First Round of WNIT

AU Women's Basketball Edged by James Madison, 61-59, in First Round of WNIT

March 20, 2009

Harrisonburg, Va. - The American University women's basketball fell to James Madison on Friday night, 61-59, in the first round of the WNIT. The visiting Eagles were paced with 18 points from sophomore Michelle Kirk. Sophomore Liz Leer chipped in 11 points and freshman Ebony Edwards scored nine in the defeat for the Eagles.

James Madison (24-9) jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead before Kirk scored the game's next four points to cut the early deficit to two. The Dukes continued to apply the early pressure on American (19-12), opening up a 12-7 advantage a little more than five minutes into the contest.

The teams played even for the next few minutes until a 5-0 AU spurt. The Eagles' run was capped by a Sahar Nusseibeh bucket off a feed by Raven Harris, which tied the score at 15-15 at the 12:25 mark of the first half.

After a James Madison basket, Kirk and Jackson hit back-to-back jumpers to give AU its first lead of the game, 20-17. The Eagles continued to apply the pressure and opened up a 24-19 advantage on a Kirk steal and coast-to-coast transition layup at the 7:36 mark.

A James Madison basket cut the AU lead to 24-21, although the Eagles responded with five unanswered points (on a Lisa Strack layup and Edwards three-pointer) to open up a 29-21 advantage. An Edwards free throw gave the Eagles a 30-21 lead with 5:58 to play in the opening half. This free throw extended AU's run to 20-6 over the preceding seven-plus minutes.

The teams played virtually even over the final minutes of the first half, and AU took a 36-29 lead into intermission. At halftime, the Eagles held a 17-7 bench scoring advantage, including seven points from both Edwards and Strack.

The Dukes came out of the locker room strong, cutting the AU lead to one, 45-44, with 14:53 to play. After a Leer jumper gave the Eagles a 49-46 advantage, JMU scored the game's next four points to go ahead 50-49, its first lead since 17-15 in the first half.

This led to a back-and-forth action, where the lead changed hands five times over the next three minutes. The Dukes were able to eventually take control and open up a six-point advantage, 59-53, at the 8:43 mark of the second half.

But the resilient Eagles responded with a 6-0 run over the next six minutes to knot the score at 59-59. This stretch included back-to-back buckets by Ryan and Leer, and a pretty step-back jumper by Kirk.

James Madison broke its six-plus minute scoreless drought with a pair of free throws by Sarah Williams with 2:28 to play to give the Dukes a 61-59 lead. The action went back-and-forth over the game's final two minutes, although neither team was able to put any points on the board. With the score remaining 61-59, AU's Kirk had a game-tying opportunity at the buzzer, but her runner in the lane was off-the-mark.

James Madison was paced by sophomore Dawn Evans, who had a game-high 26 points, although it came on 22 shot attempts from the floor. Jalissa Taylor had 12 points for the Dukes, and Nina Uqdah finished with a game-high 13 rebounds.

Kirk led AU with 18 points on seven-for-14 shooting from the field. Leer contributed 11 points on five-of-eight from the floor and had one blocked shot to finish the season with 62, setting a new AU single-season record. Senior Guard Pam Stanfield had seven rebounds for the Eagles in her final collegiate game.

Junior Nicole Ryan finished the season with the top single-season free throw percentage in school history at 87.8 percent (65-74).

The Eagles complete their season with 19 wins, and earned postseason births in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history.