All cylinders fired perfectly on Saturday in the women’s basketball team’s 85-54 blowout of Kean University in Packer Hall. The game put them in solid playoff position at fourth place in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC), where the top six teams make the playoffs.
“I think our team is starting to make the commitment to play hard the rest of the season,” junior guard/forward Megan Hueter said. “A win like this gives us the confidence, knowing we’re right there with the best teams in the NJAC.”
Senior forward Erin Frank exploded for a season-high 28 points and Hueter added a career-high 16 points to pace the Lions. The College’s defense smothered the Cougars, forcing 31 turnovers and holding them to just 37 percent shooting from the field.
While the defense was dominating, the offense was red-hot, shooting 50 percent from the field and scoring a season-high 85 points.
“I absorbed some of the great positive energy that my teammates had on Saturday,” Hueter said. “We just wanted to win against Kean so badly.”
The win raised the College’s record to 11-7, 8-4 in the NJAC, and dropped Kean’s record to 13-6 and 8-4 in the conference.
The College opened the game on an 18-6 run over the first six minutes. Frank led the run, scoring 12 of the Lions’ first 18 points. The College took a commanding 42-28 lead into the locker room.
“Every game this time of year has a lot of added pressure on it and it’s about winning this time of year,” head coach Dawn Henderson said.
The second half proved to be more of the same as the College opened up leads of 20 and 31 points. Senior Tiara Simpkins chipped in 14 points and Sara Best added 11 points off the bench.
“For one of the first times this season, we started the game off playing hard and continuing it in both halves,” Hueter said.
Sophomore forward Chari’ Cooper and junior forward Chi Clark led Kean with 14 points each, and Cooper tallied a double-double with 13 rebounds.
Last Wednesday, the College fell to first-place Richard Stockton College 72-56 behind sophomore guard Lisa Neira’s game-high 18 points and five assists. Senior Danica Miller led the College with 17 points and seven rebounds.
“We thought we were ready to play, we had good practices, but we didn’t play particularly well,” Henderson said. Stockton sprinted out to a 20-9 lead and took a 46-22 lead into the locker room. The College fought back with a 23-4 run to make it a 10-point game.
But Stockton’s lead, which at one point swelled to 31 points, proved too much to overcome. “We had a tough loss on Wednesday, but we had a great second half against Stockton where we played some excellent defense,” Hueter said. “So we kind of still had that in our system going into yesterday’s game.”
Whatever the Lions had in their system on Saturday, they played their best game of the year at arguably the most critical time. With four of the College’s last six opponents ranking in the bottom of the NJAC, their win against third-place Kean puts them in prime position in the league’s playoff picture.
The Lions will next take the court in Camden against Rutgers University today at 6 p.m. Then they will host Rowan on Saturday, also at 6 p.m.