COLUMBUS, Ohio – Competing in the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Elite Eight after picking up the program's first-ever East Region Championship last week, the Saint Anselm College women's basketball team recorded a 71-61 loss to nationally-ranked Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
Saint Anselm, the seventh seed entering the tournament, caps a historic season with a 22-10 overall record. The Hawks, led by Head Coach Corey Boilard, earned the program's first-ever East Region title after defeating three higher-seeded teams (Bentley, Stonehill, Le Moyne) – the three institutions were downed by the Hawks, despite the trio combining to post a 6-0 record leading up to the East Region championship.
Southwestern Oklahoma State University, the second seed in the Elite Eight, improves to 34-1 and owns the second-longest active winning streak in NCAA Division II at 34 games. The Bulldogs will take on Indiana (Pa.), who cruised past Azusa Pacific in the earlier game on Tuesday – the tip for the semifinal game will be 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Hawks kept one of the nation's strongest three-point offenses to only six made three-point field goals beyond the arc, but Saint Anselm committed a season-high 31 turnovers in the defeat. The Hawks held statistical edges in rebounding (52-to-35), field goal percentage (40.3%-to-34.7%) and assists (15-to-9), but the Bulldogs had 19 takeaways and went to the line 20 times in the contest.
Saint Anselm finished the year limiting its opponents to a program-record 35.3% field goal percentage and a 25.7% performance beyond the arc. The team's 1,425 rebounds on the year is a new team record and the squad's rebounding average of 44.5 is the second-best figure.
Junior Shannon Ryan (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) capped a strong season for Saint Anselm with an 18-point, 13-rebound performance against the Bulldogs. She concluded her year with 592 points scored, the second-most in a season by any Saint Anselm student-athlete, and her 385 rebounds on the year shattered the previous single-season record of 344, set by Andrea Sunday '95 in 1994-95.
Sophomore Peyton Steinman (Pittsfield, Mass.) fell just one rebound shy of a double-double, scoring 17 points with nine rebounds. Senior Michaela Martin (Haverhill, Mass.) finished her four-year career with eight points and four rebounds and junior Sara Messler (Durham, N.H.) had eight rebounds and six points.
Saint Anselm opened up a 9-4 lead on the Bulldogs, using a Mazur triple during that stretch that fueled a 7-0 scoring run to create the early advantage. Despite a 10-0 run by the Bulldogs, Martin had two clutch baskets for Saint Anselm in the first quarter's final 90 seconds, keeping the Hawks to within three points, 16-13, through 10 minutes of action.
The Bulldogs forced the Hawks into 11 first-quarter miscues, but Saint Anselm's stout three-point defense kept the potent Southwestern Oklahoma State offense to only one made triple. The Hawks were also helped by winning 15 of the first quarter's 22 rebounds, many of those coming on long-range Bulldogs three-point attempts.
Saint Anselm put up six straight points to begin the second quarter, retaking a three-point lead, 19-16, but the Bulldogs countered with only their second made three of the afternoon to draw the game even. With the score tied at 23 later in the quarter, the Hawks were on the wrong end of an 8-2 scoring run to give Southwestern Oklahoma State a 31-25 advantage late in the second.
The teams battled to three tied scores in the second stanza, but it was the Bulldogs who pulled away late with 11 of the half's final 19 points to capture a 34-31 lead. Saint Anselm kept the game close, despite committing 14 miscues and the Bulldogs scoring as many points off of those turnovers.
Following a fast-break layup by Steinman with 5:52 left in the third quarter, the Hawks still trailed by four points, 42-38. An 8-to-2 scoring run by Southwestern Oklahoma State followed Steinman's basket, creating the first double-digit deficit of the game for either team.
After an early basket by the Bulldogs, Ryan had three consecutive baskets in the paint to reduce the Southwestern Oklahoma State lead to two points, 56-54. The Bulldogs countered with a 15-2 scoring run to erase any chance of a Hawks comeback, limiting the Hawks to only a Messler layup in the paint with 3:15 to go.
Bethany Franks finished the contest with a team-best 18 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs.