WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) women's basketball team was dealt a heart-breaking defeat Saturday afternoon, dropping its first home contest of the season, 71-70, to the Raiders of Rivier University (RIV) in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) contest, held inside the new-look O'Connell Center. With the loss, the Blue Jays dip to 6-5 overall and 2-2 in the GNAC, while the Raiders avoid a three-game slide and improve to 5-6 overall, including a 1-3 mark in conference play.
Score: Rivier 71, Saint Joseph 70
Records: RIV 5-6 (1-3 GNAC), USJ 6-5 (2-2 GNAC)
Location: O'Connell Center | West Hartford, Conn.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sophomore guard Lyric Grumblatt (Manchester, N.H.), the GNAC's leading scorer at better than 25 points per game entering the contest, was the hero for the Raiders, as she drove the ball herself coast-to-coast off a missed free throw to give the Raiders the lead with 2.4 seconds left. USJ called a timeout to advance the ball, but a three-pointer from junior guard and captain Amanda Fudge (Middletown, Conn.) went off the mark as time expired.
Freshman forward Alexa Dufries (Leicester, Mass.) was on fire in the first half for Rivier, netting 21 of the Raiders' 30 first-half points on 6-of-12 shooting from the floor (4-7 3FG). USJ threw several different defenders at Dufries, but she was able to work off screens and find openings to produce high-quality offense for second-year head coach Deanna Purcell. The Raiders took a slim, 30-28, advantage into the break as the Blue Jays had 11 first-half turnovers. Saint Joseph relied on a heavy dose of sophomore forward Jordan Ouellette (Bristol, Conn.), who scored 13 points in half number one, but the Raiders led for the final 5:24 of the second quarter to take a two-point lead into the locker room.
Dufries was clearly the priority defensively for USJ in the second half, holding the game's leading scorer at the time to just one field goal in the third quarter, but the Raiders held it together and maintained their two-point edge, 46-44, heading into the final stanza behind a well-balanced offensive attack.
The fourth quarter saw some of the best back-and-forth action seen all season for both teams, as the squads traded buckets and the lead over a dozen times. It culminated in a one-point lead for USJ with seconds remaining, but a pair of missed free throws opened the door as Grumblatt scored with just over two seconds on the clock to win the game.
COACH QUOTE [Wendy Davis]
"Grumblatt and Dufries are amazing scorers. They really took over the game. We had a lot of fight and got plenty of free throws, and that means we were attacking the rim, but when you only shoot 47% from the line, you aren't going to win basketball games."
Sophomore forward Jordan Ouellette (Bristol, Conn.) was once again the high-scorer for the hosts, scoring 21 points (9-17 FG), to go along with 13 rebounds, good for her second double-double of the season. Ouellette has now scored 20-plus points in five of her last six outings. Senior forward Cheyenne-Mone Smith (Wethersfield, Conn.) added 16 points (7-14 FG) to go along with nine rebounds and five assists, while freshman guard Maya Slisz (New Britain, Conn.) made some big plays on both ends of the floor for the Blue Jays, finishing with a career-high 14 points (6-10 FG) and five caroms.
Dufries scored 21 of her 23 points in the first half before fouling out early in the fourth quarter for the Raiders. With Dufries in foul trouble, Grumblatt took over for Rivier in the second half, pouring in 23 of her game-high 25 points over the final 20 minutes, including 18 points in the fourth quarter and the game-winning bucket. Sophomore guard Anna Stenger (Weare, N.H.) also finished in double figures for the visitors, tallying 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field.
USJ shot 40.3% (29-72) from the field, 27.3% (3-11) from three, and 47.4% (9-19) from the free-throw line in the setback. Rivier connected on 32.5% (25-77) of its tries from the floor, 34.4% (11-32) from three, and 62.5% (10-16) from the charity stripe. The Blue Jays won the battle inside, outrebounding Rivier (52-43), scoring more second-chance points (14-6), and scoring more points in the paint (40-18). Neither team led by more than six in the contest. The score was tied 11 different times and there were 20 lead changes.
The Blue Jays return to the hardwood Wednesday, January 12 for a Great Northeast Athletic Conference matchup on the road against Elms College. Tipoff between the Blue Jays and Blazers is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. inside the Maguire Center in Chicopee, Mass. Spectators are currently not allowed at indoor athletic events inside the Maguire Center, but fans can follow all of the action live via the links to Elms' livestream which can be found on www.usjbluejays.com.
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