Women’s Basketball: Northeastern falls to VCU in tourney

Women’s Basketball: Northeastern falls to VCU in tourney

NEWARK, DEL. – Despite an 8-21 (3-15 Colonial Athletic Association) mark in the 2005-06 season, the No. 11 Huskies upset No. 6 UNC Wilmington in the opening round of the CAA tournament, cleaning some of the salt from the wound of a dismal season.

No such relief came this year, as the Huskies trailed from start to finish against No. 6 Virginia Commonwealth, dropping a 74-58 decision in the opening round of the CAA tournament, held at the Bob Carpenter Center in Delaware.

The Rams opened on a 9-0 run, highlighted by a three-pointer by senior guard Michele Cosel at the 16:36 mark. The Huskies started a frigid 0-9 from the floor to start the game, finally getting on the board four minutes into the game when freshman forward Kendra Walton ripped a three from the left corner.

The Huskies pulled to within one possession, making it 9-6 on a three-point play by junior guard Shaleyse Smallwood with 15:32 left in the half.

Smallwood scored 16 points for the game, the 11th straight game in which she posted double-digit points. She concluded the regular season sixth in the CAA in scoring (16.0 ppg), fourth in assists (4.12) and seventh in free throw percentage (.783), garnering All-CAA third team honors.

Following the conversion by Smallwood, Northeastern hung close to VCU and seemed poised to make a charge in the final two minutes when junior guard Lucia Pablos sank a three to close the gap to 29-25 with 1:56 left in the half. The basket was the first of the game for Pablos, who started 0-6 from the field.

The glimmer of hope Pablos provided was quickly snuffed by the Rams’ full-court press, which forced four turnovers in the closing minutes of the half. Junior forward Krystal Vaughn was left wide open under the basket on an in-bounds pass with 42 seconds remaining and hit an easy jumper to put VCU up 35-25 heading into halftime.

“We worked on the press break the last few days in practice – we thought we had it,” said head coach Daynia La-Force Mann. “It’s not the fact that we didn’t work on it … [but] when we came back and cut [the lead] to four, [we] were exhausted and couldn’t handle the press.”

The Rams opened the second half on a 7-0 run, giving them a 42-25 lead with 17:47 remaining. The resilient Huskies closed the lead to 48-41 at the 12:41 mark on a layup by Pablos.

A three-pointer by Cosel gave the Rams a 10-point lead, and Northeastern would only pull as close as nine for the rest of the game, giving VCU the first-round victory.

“We spent a lot of games [this season] putting ourselves in a hole and trying to come back,” La-Force Mann said.

Pablos finished the game with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Walton posted 10 points and four boards. Junior forward Stefanie Hodell led all players with 13 rebounds.

VCU out-rebounded NU 46 to 36 and shot 45 percent (27-60) to Northeastern’s 30.2 percent (19-63).

Sophomore forward Quanitra Hollingsworth finished with 17 points and 10 boards, while Vaughn had 14 and seven, respectively, for VCU (17-13, 9-9).

The Huskies had already lost momentum heading into the first round of the tournament, falling 65-35 to Delaware on Senior Night at Solomon Court.

The Blue Hens (26-5, 16-2) started on an 11-0 run and never looked back, and NU trailed by as many as 20 points for most of the second half, as Delaware held the Huskies to 21.4 percent from the field (12-56).

Pablos led the Huskies with 13 points, while Smallwood had 12. Hodell pulled down 13 boards.

Before the game, Smallwood was presented with a ball to commemorate her 1,000th career point, which she scored Feb. 18 in a 71-57 loss to then-No. 25 James Madison.

Senior captain and point guard Jody Burrows, senior guard Stephanie Wood and junior guard Danatia Baker were also honored before the game for the final home match-up of their collegiate careers.

Burrows had three points and three rebounds before leaving the game in the second half after falling and did not play in NU’s loss to VCU in the CAA tournament.

Although hampered by a torn ACL that limited her to 14 games, Burrows finished her career on Huntington Avenue ranked third in career assists, and was an honorable mention this year for the All-Academic team.

“I was trying not to think about it too much,” Burrows said of her last game. “I didn’t want to get emotional. I had a lot of great opportunities and great memories.”

Wood has not played this season due to injury, while Baker is graduating after appearing in 23 games over two seasons.

Despite a 4-26 overall record (3-15 CAA), several Huskies turned in strong individual performances this season.

Sophomore guard Ashlee Feldman led the CAA with a 90.2 percent mark from the charity stripe and was third in three-pointers made with 72. Pablos finished the year 15th in points (13.5 ppg) and eighth in assists (3.43). Hodell averaged 8.8 rebounds, good for fifth in the conference, while freshman forward Kim Carr ranked 12th in the CAA with 0.8 blocks per game.

Along with Smallwood, these returning players will give the Huskies a solid foundation for La-Force Mann to build next season.

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