NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack College women’s basketball team had the ball and a chance to take the lead in the final minute against the University of New Haven, a team that is receiving votes in the national coaches poll, but the Warriors did not score, allowing the Chargers to score at the buzzer on a runner from Elizabeth Cruso and win, 68-66, from Hammel Court on Saturday afternoon.
Score: Merrimack 66 | New Haven 68
Records: Merrimack (10-8, 6-7 NE-10)| New Haven (17-3, 11-3 NE-10)
Location: Hammel Court | North Andover, Mass.
How It Happened
With five minutes remaining in the game, it appeared that New Haven had control of the contest. Lauren Hebert made a jumper to make it 66-59, but the Charger would then endure a scoring drought that would last until the last possession of the game.
The Warriors embarked on a 7-0 run over the 3:31, with Chloe Rothman (Newton, Mass.) hitting two free throws with 2:29 to go to tie the game at 2:29. The team’s combined to miss the next five shots of the game and with 13 seconds left, junior guard Ashley Weissmann (Highland, Calif.) missed a layup and gave the Chargers one more opportunity. Cruso, who had missed most of the second half after picking up her fourth foul two minutes in, drove the lane and hit a runner as time expired to win the game.
The second stanza actually started with the Warriors taking a lead, as Rothman hit a jumper less than three minutes into the second half to give Merrimack a 40-39 advantage. Over the next four minutes, the Chargers went on 10-1 run to take a 49-41 lead.
From there Merrimack would battle back, outscoring the Chargers 16-8 to tie the game at 57-all with 7:04 left in the contest.
The Warriors and Chargers played a back-and-forth first half, with neither team holding a lead than seven points. Through six minutes of action, the Warriors held a 10-9 lead after four consecutive points from freshman forward Stormee Van Belle (Sunnyside, Wash.).
At the midway point of the opening stanza, New Haven’s leading scorer Aquillin Hayes tied the game at 15-15. From then on neither team led by more than two points over the next seven minutes. Leading 25-24, the Chargers went on a 6-0 spurt to lead by seven points with less than four minutes to go.
From then on the Warriors outscored the Chargers 9-4 to make it a two-point game, 35-33, entering the second half. Rothman led all players with 11 first-half points on five-of-eight from the field.
The Navy and Gold drop below .500 in conference play at 6-7, while New Haven continues to push towards a ranking in the top 25. It is the first time Merrimack has had a losing Northeast-10 record since they began the campaign 1-2.
Inside The Numbers
Rothman put together one of her best games in recent memory, finishing with 22 points on eight-of-16 shooting. It is the fourth time this season that she has totaled at least 20 points and first time in the last 10 games
The Chargers utilized a balanced attack to defeat the Warriors, with five players scoring in double figures. Merrimack actually contained Hayes whoe finished in double figures but only shot four-of 13. Methuen native Ashley LeBlanc totaled a double-double with 10 points and 14 boards
Junior guard Tia Scott (New York, N.Y.) was the only other Warrior to score in double figures, with 11 points. Over her last five games, Scott is averaging 11.0 points per game
The contest was certainly back-and-forth, while the game featuring nine ties and seven lead changes. Free-throw shooting also had a significant impact on the game with New Haven knocking down 91 percent of its attempts (20-22) while Merrimack shot just 57 percent (16-28)
Weather permitting, the Warriors are set to travel to Southern Connecticut on Monday for a 5:30 p.m. contest. The game was originally scheduled for January 27, but was postponed due to the snowstorm that hit the Northeast this week.
Mike McMahon covers Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report as well as on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN