PAXTON, Mass.— The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) women's basketball team led by nine early, but could not maintain it against the athleticism of Anna Maria College (AMC), who eventually pulled away in the second half to win 78-57, inside the Fuller Center Saturday afternoon.
The Blue Jays (3-18, 0-8 GNAC) have lost four straight, while the Amcats (8-14, 5-4 GNAC) have won three in a row. Junior guard Sienna Johnson (Brockton, Mass.) scored a game-high 17 points (7-10 FG). Her teammate, sophomore guard Amber Wilson (New York, N.Y.) stole the show with 16 points (6-9 FG), five assists, four rebounds and four blocked shots. Freshman guard Silvana Barcomb (Middletown, Conn.) continues to lead in the scoring department for USJ, finishing with 13 points (6-6 FT), while sophomore forward Shaniyah Williams (New Britain, Conn.), who struggled shooting from the floor, found a way to make an impact on the defensive end (8 PTS, 5 REBS, 2 STLS). AMC shot better than 50 percent from the field, and 40 percent from three.
The Blue Jays looked like the better team in the first quarter, opening up with their best four and a half minutes of basketball all season; crisp cuts through the lane, good hard passes to the cutters, and great offensive execution for scores (only one turnover). On defense, USJ turned to a 2-2-1 full court press, and forced four early turnovers. USJ held an 11-2 lead at the midway point of the quarter, as four players scored to start; A mid-range jumper from sophomore point guard Raelynn Voislow (Windsor Locks, Conn.), a Barcomb corner three, two jumpers off the dribble from freshman forward Cheynne-Mone Smith (Wethersfield, Conn.), and a catch and shoot from freshman forward Lindsey Montminy (Vernon, Conn.).
The Amcats came clawing back on an 11-5 run to make it 16-13 at the end of the first. Johnson drained two shots in the quarter, including one from inside the circle with three seconds to go, swinging the momentum.
AMC continued to chip away at it, and eventually took the lead in the second, controlling the pace of the game by slowing things down. Wilson scored eight first half points, along with three rebounds and three assists. She did it with some impressive one-on-one drives to the hole, getting the ball up and over before the help defense could contest. USJ struggled with fouls as well, putting AMC on the foul line most of the quarter (6-11 FT in the first half). The Blue Jay offense sputtered in the second, as shots that fell early on rattled out, and turnovers began to climb. The Amcats were plus nine in the quarter, and led by six at the break, 34-28. Barcomb led all first half scorers with nine points, shooting a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
USJ came out and scored on their first possession to cut it to four, but a 10-2 run by AMC built their largest lead of the game at that time at 12, 44-32 with 6:27 left in the third. Sound team defense, and a balanced attack offensively from the Amcats made the difference. It was capped by a three-point bucket from sophomore guard Franchesca Hammond (Worchester, Mass.), and a Blue Jay timeout by first year head coach Wendy Davis.
Saint Joe's trailed by as many as 17 in the quarter, but continued to fight on every possession, forcing several deflections defensively. AMC was just a half step ahead with their offense though the longer the possession went, either zipping the ball around for a high percentage shot, or converting on an offensive rebound. Senior center Shannon Hofmiller (Oxford, Conn.) converted on several attempts, scoring all 12 of her points in the first three quarters. Barcomb and Montminy did what they could offensively, but the lead was still 17, 59-42, going to the fourth quarter.
AMC opened it up in the fourth, as all players scored for them in the game. The Blue Jays continued to fight to the end, but struggled to hang onto the ball, giving the Amcats more chances to build the lead. USJ had just three turnovers in the first quarter, but had 18 the rest of the game. They did stay aggressive, and shoot very well from the free throw line (13-18, 72%), their second best effort from the line all season.
USJ will close out the season with a four-game home stand, starting this Tuesday, February 5, against Albertus Magnus (CT) at 4:30 p.m., inside the O'Connell Center, on the campus of USJ. Anna Maria will also play on Tuesday, as they host Simmons (MA) for a matchup at 5:30 p.m.