Late-game surge lifts Lady Owls over Highlanders

Late-game surge lifts Lady Owls over Highlanders

In an even matchup that featured 14 lead changes, the women’s basketball team extended its win streak to three games in a 75-64 home conference victory over the New Jersey Institute Technology Highlanders Feb. 2.

The Owls started the game with two quick 3-pointers from redshirt junior guards Kelly Dulkoski and Clara Young to take a 6-0 lead.

Despite the quick start, KSU suffered two separate scoring droughts toward the end of the first period.

With four minutes to go, the Owls were 0-9 on shooting and needed an answer fast as NJIT closed in on KSU’s 7-6 lead. Back-to-back 3-pointers from senior guard Deandrea Sawyers ended the team’s first scoring drought that lasted over two minutes.

After another two-minute scoring drought, the first period ended with a 14-12 Owls lead. Sawyers finished as the game’s leading scorer with 22 points.

KSU desperately needed a playmaker to consistently avoid the these droughts. The answer in the second period was senior guard Aareon Smith. Although Smith was held scoreless in the first period, she scored nine of the Owls’ 13 points in the second period and finished with 17 points and a team-high for 3-pointers.

“We knew we had to score from the outside against their defense, and we set a [season] record with 11 three-pointers,” head coach Agnus Berenato said. “I thought Aareon [Smith] was tremendous. Aareon and Deandrea [Sawyers] are seniors, and that is what seniors have to do. If you want to win at home, you have to win with your seniors.”

The Owls found themselves down again but were led by freshman forward Carlotta Gianolla’s eight-point third-period surge and closed the gap. Gianolla finished with 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.

At the game’s close, the Owls offense collectively came together. Much like last week, Sawyers came alive in the fourth period, scoring 13 of her 22 points in the clutch time. KSU enjoyed a 13-0 run in the final seven minutes and put the Highlanders away for good.

“It was a great game and came down to the last quarter, and I told the team to hang in there,” Berenato said. “We had another great performance from Deandrea [Sawyers] and we had a double-double from Carlotta [Gianolla], who did a great job on the boards as well as scoring for us.”

The Owls return to action on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 2 p.m. when they host the University of South Carolina Upstate at the KSU Convocation Center.

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