WINTER PARK, Fla. - The Saint Michael's College women's basketball team opened its season with a 76-63 loss to Rollins (Fla.) College on Friday at the Rollins Tip-Off Classic in the Alfond Sports Center. It was also the first game of the year for the Tars, who qualified for 15 of the past 22 NCAA Tournaments.
Junior Leah Spencer (Brockton, Mass./Archbishop Williams) notched 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals for Saint Michael's, snagging four of her boards on the offensive end, and senior Indira Evora (Somerville, Mass./Somerville) had 10 points and three helpers. Evora knocked down a pair of free throws to up her career total to 219, passing SMC Athletic Hall of Famer Liz LeFebvre '03 (218) for 15th in program history. The teams met for the first time, while the Purple Knights last visited Florida for a tournament in December 2010.
Sophomore Samantha Delaney (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown East) totaled eight points and six boards, and first-year Brianna Purcell (Bedford, N.H./Bedford) debuted with eight points behind a 4-of-5 showing at the charity stripe. Junior Tomi Akinpetide (Sydney, Australia/Rice Memorial) added seven points, five rebounds and two assists, and classmate Maddy Bennett (Montpelier, Vt./U-32) tacked on five boards, with four offensive. Sophomore Emily Ferreri (Hyde Park, N.Y./Our Lady of Lourdes) dished off three assists and had two steals.
Senior Marie Gilbert led all scorers with 21 points for Rollins, which qualified for the NCAA Division II Elite Eight as recently at 2012. Gilbert shot 4-of-6 from three-point range and pulled six rebounds, and classmate Tanaya Jones turned in 10 points, five boards, four assists and two steals. Six others had between eight and six points.
Gilbert buried her second three-pointer with 5:48 left in the first quarter to give Rollins an 8-3 lead, but the Purple Knights countered with an 11-0 run that took 2:08 to elapse. Purcell had five points by herself, and Spencer added four, with Purcell's three-point play producing a 14-8 score at 1:24. The Tars responded with a 23-6 stretch, grabbing a 31-20 advantage by the time 1:32 remained in the opening half. Seven Rollins players scored in that time, with senior Brittany Betts' six points on a pair of three-pointers leading the way. Evora's pair of free throws with 1:16 to go were met by Jones' lay-in at 12 seconds, and the hosts led 33-22 at halftime.
Gilbert hit a pair of triples during the first 2:05 of the second half to help push the Tars' lead to 40-25, but the visitors trimmed their deficit to five on the strength of a 17-7 run. Spencer netted 10 of the points, making it 47-42 at 3:37 of the third quarter. Gilbert's two buckets helped push the advantage to 59-46 by the end of the period before the Purple Knights made a charge early in the fourth, as a 13-4 stretch created a 63-59 hole by the time 5:22 remained on Ferreri's lay-in. Akinpetide kicked off the run with consecutive hoops.
After Gilbert buried a three, Bennett's basket at 3:33 kept her team within five, but the next five points came from Tars, who pushed the lead back to double figures.
The Purple Knights complete their trip by facing Florida Institute of Technology tomorrow at 4 p.m. on day two of the Rollins Tip-Off Classic. Florida Tech is sixth in the latest D2SIDA South Region Media Poll.