RINDGE, N.H. - The Saint Michael's College women's basketball team opened Northeast-10 Conference play on Wednesday, standing tied with nationally-regarded Franklin Pierce University midway through the third quarter before succumbing by a 68-53 count at FPU Fieldhouse. The Purple Knights are 1-2 overall, while the Ravens, who qualified for the 2015 NCAA Tournament, were beginning their season. Franklin Pierce received votes toward the USA TODAY preseason national poll and sit sixth in the D2SIDA East Region Media Poll.
Sophomore Leah Spencer (Brockton, Mass./Archbishop Williams) notched a career-high 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting for Saint Michael's as the lone player on her team in double figures. Senior Makenzie Burud (Red Hook, N.Y./Coleman Catholic) had eight points, a career-high-tying 15 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block, and junior Indira Evora (Somerville, Mass./Somerville) totaled eight points and two steals. Senior Megan Gaudreau (Brooklyn, Conn./Pomfret School) added eight points, and first-year Samantha Delaney (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown East) hauled in eight rebounds.
Senior Natalie Bastian recorded 19 points and four assists for the Ravens, classmate Kara Charette turned in 11 points and nine rebounds, while senior Dyamond Gardner notched 10 points and six steals. Junior Alison Palma had nine points, 11 boards and four blocks, and sophomore Jemma Thacker pulled down nine caroms.
Charette converted a three-point play 11 seconds into the game, but Gaudreau buried a three-pointer at 8:38 of the opening quarter to give Saint Michael's a 5-3 lead, the first of three lead changes in the stanza. Spencer's triple put the Purple Knights on top, 11-9, at 5:52, kicking off a 10-2 run during which Spencer netted six points. The visitors led 18-11 on a Spencer freebie at 53 seconds before Bastian hit a jumper just before the final buzzer.
Charette's lay-in produced an 18-15 deficit 52 seconds into the second period, but Spencer turned in a three-point play, Burud dropped home a bucket and Gaudreau canned another triple to give Saint Michael's its largest lead, 26-15, with 6:33 to go. That proved to be the visitors' final hoop of the half, as the Ravens countered with a 14-2 run, as Palma hit tying and go-ahead freebies at 1:04. Evora's pair from the charity stripe put the Purple Knights back on top 30 seconds later, but Palma's three-point play at 16 seconds put the host up 32-30 at the half.
Saint Michael's erased a 41-36 hole on Evora's three at 5:52 of the third and Spencer's tying lay-in 25 seconds later, but the next 10 points came from Ravens by 1:52. Spencer's basket brought the visitors within 51-43 at the end of three, but the run extended to 23-4 by the time 2:36 remained in regulation, as Burud's jumper at 9:12 accounted for her team's lone points in the opening seven-plus minutes of the fourth stanza. Bastian did most of her team's damage in that stretch, scoring nine of Franklin Pierce's 23 points to give it a 64-45 edge.
Four points from Spencer during a 6-0 run cut the visitors' disadvantage to 13 points with 1:37 to go, but Saint Michael's came no closer.
The Purple Knights open their home slate on Saturday by hosting nationally-ranked Assumption College at 1:30 p.m. The Greyhounds were 23rd in this week's D2SIDA National Media Poll while sitting third regionally.