MANCHESTER, N.H. – Seniors Epiphany Smith (Springdale, Ark.) and Megan Howard (St. Paul, Minn.) combined for 39 points as the Saint Anselm College women's basketball team earned a 71-61 victory against Stonehill College in their Northeast-10 Conference opener Wednesday night at Stoutenburgh Gymnasium.
The Hawks improve to 3-0 for the second straight year and are 1-0 in the conference, while the Skyhawks drop to 1-1, 0-1.
Smith netted 20 points on 6 of 12 shooting from the field, including 1 of 2 from behind the arc, and 7 of 8 at the line. Smith chipped in four assists and a pair of rebounds. Howard hit for 19 points on an efficient 9 of 11 from the floor. The reigning Northeast-10 Player of the Week added eight boards, three assists, a block and a steal.
The Hawks twice built a four-point lead in the first half of the opening stanza, but Stonehill pulled even on both occasions and led, 20-19 with 8:46 remaining. Saint Anselm answered by going on a 10-2 run that was bookended by a pair of Curran Leighton (Dover, N.H.) 3-pointers, including the second that made it 29-22 with 6:05 to play.
Leighton added 12 points on 3 of 7 shooting, including 2 of 5 from deep. The junior was 4 of 5 at the stripe and tallied six rebounds, three assists and a block.
The Hawks led by eight, 31-23 with 3:12 on the clock, but a trey from Mary Louise Dixon, followed by layups from Morghan Farnsworth and Priscilla Dodoo sent Stonehill into the locker room trailing by just a point, 31-30.
Baskets on three consecutive possessions to start the second half by Smith, Howard and sophomore Tori Lehr (Cohasset, Mass.) opened the Hawks' lead to 37-30 just two minutes in, but Stonehill would answer with an 8-2 run that sliced it to 39-38 with 14:55 remaining.
The Hawks would widen their lead to six at 47-41, but four straight points for the Skyhawks made it a two-point game. A 3-pointer by sophomore Ashley Viselli (Groveland, Mass.), followed by a pair of Howard baskets, once again gave the Hawks some separation at 54-45 with 7:07 left, but Stonehill refused to go away as they scored seven straight to slice the deficit to a pair at the 5:43 mark.
Buckets from sophomore Briana Jones (White Plains, N.Y.) and Howard nudged the lead to six and on the next possession, Leighton was fouled shooting a 3 and knocked down all three of her attempts at the line to put the Hawks up, 61-53, with four minutes to go. Stonehill would get as close as 66-60 with 29 seconds on the clock, but four straight free throws from Smith widened the lead to 10 with 16 seconds left.
Lehr chipped in with six points and five boards, while Jones posted seven points and three rebounds. Sophomore Meg Morrissey (South Kingstown, R.I.) handed out six assists to match her career high she set against NYIT on Nov. 12.
Saint Anselm shot a blistering 50 percent (26-52) from the field, while holding Stonehill to 33.8 percent (22-65) shooting from the floor, including 22.2 percent (4-18) from deep. The Hawks outscored the Skyhawks in the paint, 34-24, and held a slight 38-35 rebounding margin.
Dixon led Stonehill with 23 points, five rebounds and seven assists.
The Hawks return to action Saturday, Nov. 19 at noon when they take on Dominican (N.Y.) in their first game at the DoubleTree Tip-Off Classic, which is hosted by Saint Michael's College. The Hawks play Queens (N.Y.) on Sunday, Nov. 20 at noon in their second game. Their next home game is Sunday, Nov. 27 at 1:30 p.m. when they play host to Bentley University.