SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (February 2, 2008) -- The Wheaton College women's basketball team matched its best league start in program history Saturday afternoon against visiting Springfield College, as the Lyons recorded a 69-54 New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) victory in Emerson Gymnasium. Wheaton equaled the 1994-95 team, which finished with a 7-0 mark in the New England Women's 8 Conference (NEW 8).
Winners in 10 of their last 11 games, the Lyons moved into sole possession of first place in the NEWMAC standings at 7-0 thanks to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) knocking off previously unbeaten United States Coast Guard Academy. Wheaton also improved their overall record to 14-5. Springfield, which had entered today's game collecting victories in six of its last seven contests, fell to 10-8 and 5-2.
The Lyons jumped out to an 11-2 advantage just 5:27 in, with junior Krystin Hickey (Manchester, NH/New Hampton School) dropping in five points during the stretch. The hosts stretched their lead to double figures at 16-6 on a Hickey lay-in at 9:57, but Springfield eventually whittled its deficit down to two on a three by freshman Rachelle Walker (Lee, MA/Lee) with 3:53 to go. Wheaton scored the next four points to make it 28-22, but another Walker trey capped a five-point spurt to bring the Pride to within one. Hickey finished the half with a conventional three-point play with 55 seconds left, as the Lyons carried a 31-27 edge into the locker room.
Both teams made 11 field goals in the opening half, but Wheaton took 13 more attempts. Defensively, the hosts forced Springfield into 16 turnovers while committing just seven. The Lyons also made 7-of-8 shots from the charity stripe. Hickey went a perfect 4-of-4 from the field with 10 points, while senior Becky Aitchison (Norwalk, CT/Trinity Catholic) had six points and six boards. Three different Pride players had six points, including junior Lauren O'Connor (Valhalla, NY/Valhalla), who pulled down six boards.
Springfield captured its first and only lead of the game with 15:24 remaining, as junior Corey Finch (Hanover, PA/Hanover) converted a lay-up from senior Tara McCarthy (Bristol, RI/La Salle Academy). Just 58 seconds later, sophomore Andrea Bailey (Needham, MA/Needham) converted a three-point play and junior Bri Smith (Westford, MA/Westford Academy) followed with a three 35 seconds after that for a 44-39 edge at 13:51. Clinging to a three-point lead with less than nine minutes left, the Lyons used a 12-2 run during a 5:28 span for a 60-47 advantage with just over three minutes to go. Five different Wheaton players scored in that stretch. The Blue and White drained all nine of its free throws in the final 2:23, led by Smith's 8-of-8 showing. Taking advantage of turnovers and converting offensive rebounds into baskets proved to be the difference, as the Lyons held a 32-7 advantage in points off turnovers and 21-2 edge in second-chance points. The Pride committed 25 turnovers, and Wheaton held a 38-29 rebounding advantage, including swiping 20 offensive boards. Springfield shot 45.8 percent to the Lyons' 36.1 percent, but the hosts hit 20-of-26 from the free throw line to the Pride's 4-of-6.
With 17 second-half points, Smith finished with a game-high 19, including an 11-of-12 performance from the charity stripe, to go along with five rebounds. Sophomore Jenny Champney (Bedford, MA/Bedford) tallied 13 points and six rebounds, while Bailey added 12 points and four steals. Hickey had 10 points, seven boards, four assists and three steals, and Aitchison chipped in with eight points and seven rebounds.
O'Connor posted 14 points and seven rebounds for the Pride, Walker had 12 points and three steals, while Finch contributed 10 points and six boards.
Springfield will next host MIT Wednesday night at 5:30 pm. Wheaton will play at Babson College that same night, also at 5:30 pm.