Niagara Gazette

November 9, 2013

Lehigh hands NU women season-opening loss

By Mike Meiler
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — The Lehigh Mountain Hawks came into the Gallagher Center on Friday night and spoiled the Niagara Purple Eagles' home opener, controling the vast majority of play in a 93-73 non-league women's basketball win.

NU (0-1) team had a night to forget on the defensive side of the ball, allowing Lehigh (1-0) to shoot 47.6 percent from the field, including 42.1 percent (8 for 19) on 3-pointers.

NU opened strong, particularly on the offensive glass. Donisha Watson grabbed three offensive rebounds in the game's first five minutes, but the deep ball proved the difference as Lehigh opened up a 15-9 lead. The Mountain Hawks started 3 for 3 on 3-pointers.

"We did a really poor job on dribble penetration and it killed us," said NU coach Kendra Faustin.

The Purps went on a 9-2 run after the first timeout. NU made a point to get into the teeth of the Lehigh defense, and Victoria Rampado and Taylor McKay each hit two free throws. Meghan McGuinness hit the Eagles' first 3 of the night, and Kelly Van Leeuwen went end-to-end after a steal for a layup.

The Mountain Hawks caught fire from there and took a 32-25 lead with 7:26 left in the half. Lehigh's Kerry Kinek — a 6-foot-3 sophomore and last season's Horizon League Rookie of the Year — had seven points in the stretch, including a three-point play. She scored her 11th point of the first half with just over 9 minutes remaining and finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.

Faustin raved about Kinek's ability in a chat Thursday, and she lived up to the hype.

"We tried different match ups (against Kinek)," Faustin said. "We went zone early because of her and they went off from 3-point line, then we tried hard-hedging and jamming screens so we wouldn't have to leave her. She can score so many different ways, if you give her one matchup she can go off the bounce on the perimeter, and if you give her another she can post up and score inside."

The Lehigh lead extended to 37-28 before McGuinness hit a 3-pointer that cut the lead to six. Two more Lehigh 3-pointers pushed the Mountain Hawks' lead into double digits, but Rampado took back-to-back charges — including one to give Kinek her second foul — to help NU end the half on a positive despite trailing 47-35.

Somehow, the Mountain Hawks kept up the shooting barrage in the second half. Kinek picked up her third foul grabbing the jersey of Niagara's Sam Lapszynski after a nice post feed from Van Leeuwen, and McGuinness followed with a 3-pointer to swing some momentum. But Kinek ramained in the game and went on a personal 6-0 run, hitting two-midrange jumpers before using a shot fake to get an easy layup.

Lehigh led by 13 with 15:35 left in the game, then extended that lead to as much as 24. Niagara cut the lead to 15 after setting up its full-court press with 2:29 remaining, but it was too late for any real comeback attempt.

McGuinness scored a career-high 25 points, hitting 7 of 12 from deep. She added seven rebounds and five assists. Rampado, a freshman, scored 15 points in her collegiate debut despite dealing with foul trouble for part of the night, and McKay chipped in 10. Lehigh had five scorers in double digits.

Follow Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.