WORCESTER, Mass. – Sophomore Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) broke out for 20 points, sinking four of her eight three-point shot attempts as the Holy Cross women's basketball team defeated New Hampshire, 63-59, in the first round of the WBI tournament. With the final, the Crusaders collect a record of 19-14 while the Wildcats finish their season at 16-14. The Crusaders will now play in the second round of the WBI tournament against the No. 8 seed Manhattan Jaspers.
The Crusaders took and early 8-2 advantage, scoring the first six points of the game. Sophomore Brisje Malone (Springfield, Mass.) boosted Holy Cross to a 10-point lead, 13-3, on her second basket of the game at 13:24. The squad continued to outscore the Wildcats as senior Meredith Ward (Westerly, R.I.) sank a three-point shot to give the Crusaders a 22-9 lead at 8:41. New Hampshire pulled within nine points, 22-13, before Smith hit her second three-pointer in the game to put the Crusaders back ahead by 12, 25-13, at 6:01. After being outscored 10-6, freshman Emily Parker (Johnston, Iowa) put together a big three-point play with 29 seconds on the clock to send Holy Cross into the locker room up 34-23. Holy Cross shot 41.7 percent (15 of 36) over the first 20 minutes of action as Parker led all scorers with nine points.
New Hampshire opened the second half on a 10-2 run to pull within one point, 36-35. At 14:06 the Wildcats took their first lead of the game, 39-38. Back-to-back baskets from Smith and Parker put Holy Cross back up 42-39 but UNH continued to battle, tying the game with a three-pointer at 12:52. Smith came up big with a three-pointer at the 9:42 mark, increasing the Holy Cross lead to 50-44. New Hampshire kept it a one point game throughout the next five minutes before Smith earned a steal and followed with another three-point shot at 4:01 to make it a 55-50 game. The teams traded baskets over the final minutes as the Wildcats were forced to foul with just over 30 seconds to go. The Crusaders went 6-for-6 in the free throw opportunities, securing a 63-59 victory and topping UNH for the second time in the 2011-2012 season.
In the game, Holy Cross shot 35.9 percent from the floor (23 of 64) while UNH shot 39 percent (23 of 59). Parker and junior Amy Lepley (Norfolk, Mass.) also finished in double-figures, scoring 13 and 10 points respectively. The Crusaders won the rebounding battle, 45-36 as Malone led the team with a career-best 10 boards. The Wildcats were led by senior forward Denise Beliveau who scored a game-high 24 points.
The Crusaders will continue action in the WBI tournament when they host eighth-seeded Manhattan on Sunday, March 18. Game time is set for 3:00 p.m. at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass.