NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The lead changed hands twice in the final two seconds of overtime on Saturday as the Saint Michael's College women's basketball team suffered a 64-63 loss to regionally-ranked Southern Connecticut State University in Moore Field House. First-year Nicole Anderson (Kittery Point, Maine/Marianapolis Prep) forced the extra session with a buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of regulation.
The Purple Knights slipped to 7-12 overall and 4-10 in the Northeast-10 Conference. The Owls, who entered the day tied for first in the NE10 Southwest Division while sitting 10th in the latest D2SIDA East Region Media Poll, improved to 15-7 and 9-5. Saint Michael's, which was playing one of the NE10 Southwest Division's leaders for the third straight game, has suffered four of its most recent five series losses by six points or fewer. The home team has now won the past nine meetings between the schools.
Junior Samantha Delaney (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown East) led a balanced effort with 12 points and eight rebounds, shooting 4-of-4 on free throws and taking over sole possession of fifth in program history with her 110th career block. Delaney's two free throws with two seconds left in overtime had given her team a one-point lead. Anderson finished with 11 points in 23 minutes off the bench, shooting 3-of-5 from three-point range, while senior Leah Spencer (Brockton, Mass./Archbishop Williams) had 11 points and three assists while playing all but four minutes. Sophomore Brianna Purcell (Bedford, N.H./Bedford) totaled 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals, while senior Maddy Bennett (Montpelier, Vt./U-32) posted nine points and nine rebounds.
Senior Abby Hurlbert shot 9-of-18 for the Owls to end the day with 20 points and seven rebounds, including scoring the winning bucket as time expired in overtime. Sophomore Kiana Steinauer turned in 14 points and 13 boards, while classmate Imani Wheeler had 11 points, five assists and four steals off the bench.
With her team down 62-61, Delaney snagged an offensive rebound with 18 seconds to go in overtime before being fouled with two ticks left and hitting two free throws - with the first producing the 14th and final tie of the game - but Hurlbert converted her game-winning lay-up on the ensuing possession to beat the final buzzer.
During a fourth quarter that featured seven lead changes and four ties, redshirt senior Murphy Murad's three-pointer at 8:18 gave the Owls a 43-40 edge, their largest of the period. Five lead swings occurred in an ensuing 2:09 stretch, and Delaney and Bennett made consecutive buckets before Spencer hit a free throw at 3:56 to cap a 5-0 run that gave the Purple Knights a 52-48 lead, which they carried until less than 90 seconds remained.
From there, Hurlbert hit a jumper at 1:25 and Wheeler came up with a steal and tying lay-in with 1:04 to go. With a chance to break the tie, the Owls saw Hurlbert hit a three-pointer with one second left, leaving Saint Michael's with little time for a final possession. However, after taking an inbounds pass from midcourt, Anderson dribbled once and buried a tying three-pointer from 25 feet away at the buzzer to force overtime.
The hosts scored the first five points of the extra session before Anderson drilled another three, Spencer hit a freebie, and junior Emily Ferreri (Hyde Park, N.Y./Our Lady of Lourdes) made the tying free throw with 1:11 to go. Murad followed by going 2-of-2 at the charity stripe just six seconds later, setting up the eventful final minute.
Southern Connecticut State led 7-1 by the time Wheeler dropped home a lay-up at 2:20 of the opening quarter and 10-3 when she knocked down a three, but Anderson's triple sparked a 9-0 response during which four Purple Knights scored. Hurlbert scored half of her team's points in an 8-0 run that made it 18-12, but Spencer had two baskets to help the visitors tie the game at 18 by halftime, and Purcell capped the 8-0 jaunt 34 seconds into the second half to produce a 20-18 lead. After combining for 36 points in the opening 20 minutes, the teams totaled 40 points alone in the third quarter, when they shot 61.9 percent. Neither team led by more than three points, and the lead changed hands nine times.
Saint Michael's heads into the second leg of NE10 Northeast Division play by visiting regionally-ranked Southern New Hampshire University on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. The Penmen are eighth in this week's D2SIDA East Region Media Poll.