COLCHESTER, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College women's basketball team continued its best league start in nine years by knocking off 23rd-ranked Saint Anselm College, 62-57, on Tuesday in the Ross Sports Center. The Purple Knights won their third straight to move to 3-2 overall, and their 3-0 Northeast-10 Conference mark is their best since beginning 2007-08 with the same league record. The Hawks, who qualified for the 2016 NCAA Tournament, were ranked in this week's D2SIDA National Media Poll and fell to 3-1 and 1-1.
Junior Leah Spencer (Brockton, Mass./Archbishop Williams) netted a game-high-tying 18 points for Saint Michael's on 6-of-9 shooting, as well as a 5-of-6 showing on free throws, while pulling five rebounds. Sophomore Samantha Delaney (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown East) posted her second career double-double with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting with a career-high-tying 11 rebounds. Senior Indira Evora (Somerville, Mass./Somerville) tacked on 12 points and five rebounds. Evora moved her career three-point total to 97, tying Dani Rayner '07 for 11th in program history, while moving into a tie for 14th in free throws with Coreen Hennessy '12 (225). Sophomore Emily Ferreri (Hyde Park, N.Y./Our Lady of Lourdes) blocked a pair of shots and picked up two steals.
The Purple Knights improved to 4-1 in their last five games against Saint Anselm, while each of the past seven meetings have been decided by eight points or less. They shot 41.1 percent on Tuesday, limiting the Hawks to a 34.3 percent showing, including 28.2 in the second half, while blocking five shots and holding an 11-8 edge on second-chance points despite being outrebounded 18-10 on the offensive glass. Saint Anselm went only 4-of-16 on three-pointers, while the hosts had an 11-5 advantage in free throw makes. Saint Michael's downed a nationally-ranked team for the first time since defeating No. 22 Stonehill College on Jan. 4, 2014.
Senior Candace Andrews netted 18 points with four steals and three assists off the Saint Anselm bench, and classmate Caitlyn Abela turned in 13 points. Senior Kaila Duarte pulled 12 rebounds and rejected two shots.
Abela's jumper at 6:17 of the first quarter capped a 9-2 spurt that put her team up 9-5, but Saint Michael's countered with a 10-2 jaunt to go ahead 15-11 on Evora's three at 2:09. Spencer totaled four points in that time, and the hosts led by an 18-17 margin after the period. After her team scored no points in the paint during the opening 10 minutes, Delaney's eight second-quarter points led to a 14-8 edge in the paint, as the teams played through four ties. Saint Anselm never led by more than two points, as the hosts twice gained five-point cushions in the final 1:30. Andrews' jumper just before the halftime buzzer kept her team within 35-32 at the intermission.
Delaney's pair of buckets keyed an 8-0 run that made it 43-34 by the time 6:39 remained in the third quarter, but Andrews dropped home a lay-up to begin a 13-2 stretch, capping it with a jumper that put the Hawks on top 47-45 with 46 seconds left. After Evora knocked down two freebies with 28 ticks to go, Ferreri banked home a three from the top of the arc as time expired to break the tie and kick off a 9-0 run that carried into the fourth quarter.
While the Purple Knights forged ahead 54-47, Saint Anselm didn't score in the final period until Abela's fast-break lay-in at 5:32 cut her team's deficit to five, but Delaney followed with a jumper and Evora knocked down a freebie at 4:30 to make it 57-49. Andrews responded with the next two baskets to begin an 8-2 stretch, and junior Clairee Putnam's triple drew the Hawks within 59-57 with 1:07 remaining. On the next Purple Knight possession, Delaney snagged an offensive board to retain the ball, and Saint Anselm was forced to foul. Spencer made one free throw at 22.6 seconds, leaving a chance to tie for the visitors, who missed an off-balance three from the top of the arc with seven ticks to go. Spencer iced the game with a pair of free throws at 4.0 seconds.
Five of the Purple Knights' next seven games occur on the road, as Saint Michael's first visits Merrimack College next Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.