“We remember last year, and we didn’t want the same result,” said Saint Joseph’s Junior Guard Michelle Baker who scored a team-high 19 points. “We prepared, we did our homework, and we knew how good they were. We really wanted this one.”
This was the eight appearance in the WNIT for Saint Joseph’s. The last time the Hawks won an opening round game was in 2004 when Saint Joseph’s defeated Kent State in Philadelphia. That season the Crimson and Grey went to the quarterfinal round losing at Iowa State. The next round game will be at Boston College on March 19. It has yet to be determined how far this team will advance. That will depend on how well they play defense.
“Absolutely, especially playing an ACC team whose average score is much higher than ours,” said Junior Guard Katie Kuester. “Defensively, we have to be on our A-Game to advance.”
Saint Joseph’s held VCU to 43.1% shooting as the Rams made 25 of 58 field goal attempts. VCU committed 18 turnovers that led to 19 Saint Joseph’s points. 9 of the turnovers were steals. Saint Joseph’s Coach Cindy Griffin viewed the turnovers as significant.
“We knew we could pressure them into turnovers,” Griffin said. “We capitalized on their turnovers.”
The Hawks can be a dangerous team when they shoot it well. In this game Saint Joseph’s made 26 of 51 shots for 51%. The Crimson and Grey had 16 assists on their 26 baskets, and made 17 of 21 free throws.
VCU got going early taking a 15 – 12 lead seven minutes into the game. Saint Joseph’s responded by going on a 7 – 0 run over the next six and a half minutes as four different Hawk players scored. A jump shot by Sophomore Guard Shelby Smith at the 5:56 mark gave Saint Joseph’s a 21 – 17 lead. VCU Guard Jessica Taylor gave the lead back to the Rams as she scored seven consecutive points. Saint Joseph’s got the lead back at 25 – 24 as Sophomore Guard Ashley Prim made two free throws. A three by Freshman Guard Erin Shields put the Hawks ahead 30 – 27, and they went into the locker room leading 31 – 27.
The host Hawks started the second half scoring the first seven points. Baker put in the first five. A basket by Junior Forward Kelly Cavallo put the Hawks in front by 11 at 38 – 27 with 17:11 to play. Later in the half a 3-Pointer by Kuester gave Saint Joseph’s a 56 – 43 lead with 9:27 on the clock. The Hawks could have broken the game open, but VCU Forward Courtney Hurt would keep her team in contact by scoring nine consecutive points for the Rams. VCU crawled to within four points, but made foul shots and a jump shot by Baker at the 36 second mark gave the Hawks the win.
Three other Saint Joseph’s players scored in double figures. Junior Forward Samira Van Grinsven scored 12 points. Shields added 11, and Cavallo contributed 10 points. In addition to her game-high 19 points, Baker also had a career-high 8 assists.
Forward Courtney Hurt scored a game-high 26 points making 10 of 21 attempts from the floor. Hurt pulled down a game-high 8 rebounds. Guard Andrea Barbour scored 16 points, and Guard Jessica Taylor had 12 points. VCU had a 34 – 20 edge over Saint Joseph’s in Points in the Paint.
The season continues for the Saint Joseph’s women. The Hawks have a 20 – 11 record. Post-season success is important for this team.
“An over 20 win season would mean a lot for our team and our coaches,” said Kuester.
Key Run of the Game
Saint Joseph’s began the second half with a 20 – 10 run to take their largest lead of the game at 51 – 37 with 12:01 left to play. The run gave the Hawks a lead they held for the rest of the game. Bryant started the run scoring the first five points of the half. She scored 7 in the run. Senior Forward Dominique Bryant capped the run with a three-pointer. VCU got to within 4 with just over a minute to play, but four free throws and a jumper by Baker allowed the Hawks to seal the win.
Key Stat of the Game
VCU committed 18 turnovers that resulted in 19 points for Saint Joseph’s. 9 turnovers came via steals by Hawk defenders. Cavallo, Kuester, and Baker had 2 steals each.
Key Players in the Game
For Saint Joseph’s – Michelle Baker who scored 19 points and had a career-high 8 assists.
For VCU – Courtney Hurt who scored a game-high in points with 26, and rebounds with 8. Hurt made 10 of 21 shots and converted 5 of 9 from the free throw line.
Point Where the Game Was Decided
VCU crawled to within 4 at 66 – 62 with 1:05 remaining. Baker answered for Saint Joseph’s with a jump shot at the 36 second mark. Following a Hurt jumper, Shields converted 2 free throws with 18 seconds on the clock giving the Hawks a 6 point lead and the game.
Thoughts and Musings
The Saint Joseph’s team is made up of predominantly junior players. The team is building towards success in the next season. Accomplishing now will go a long way to creating the team they desire to be.
“It is very important for our kids to experience some success,” Griffin said. “They don’t want to stop playing, they know they need to make a run in this thing so next year we are in better position for the NCAA tournament. They bought into that. This is a highly motivated group. They want to succeed for themselves, and they want to succeed because they wear Saint Joe’s on their chest.”
Their time is in front of them. The building towards their goal process for the future has begun. The future looks bright.
Written By: Glenn Papazian