In tourney consolation, Garnet open quickly, ease to 63-46 win
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- An unforgiving schedule continues to harpoon the rebuilding effort of the Eastern Connecticut State University women's basketball team.
Wednesday, once-beaten Swarthmore College built a double-digit lead five minutes into action and the Warriors were never able to seriously threaten in a 63-46 loss in the consolation game of the Springfield College Naismith Classic at Blake Arena.
At right: Freshman Megan Cardarelli drives to the basket in the second half of Wednesday's game against Swarthmore College.
In its first appearance in the tournament, Bridgewater State University (8-2) routed defending champion Springfield (2-8), 75-51, in Wednesday afternoon's championship game. In Tuesday's first round, Eastern (2-9) battled back from a 17-point deficit before dropping a 56-53 decision to Bridgewater.
Swarthmore (8-1) rebounded from its first loss of the season Tuesday to Springfield (55-48) to send the Warriors to their sixth road loss in seven outings this year.
All of Eastern's losses thus far have come to opponents with winning percentages of at least .600, with those nine teams combining on a current overall winning percentage of .830 (73-15 record). Three of those teams (New Paltz, Southern Maine and Amherst) are undefeated and three (Southern Maine, Amherst and Emmanuel) are nationally ranked.
After surrendering 30 points off 24 turnovers against Bridgewater, Eastern gave up 21 points off 22 miscues in the first meeting ever against Swarthmore. For the second straight tournament game, however, the Warriors outrebounded their opponent, posting a +15 advantage in that department in the tournament.
It was an uphill struggled for Eastern after the Garnet broke from the only tie of the game to score seven straight points and 21 of the next 29 to move out to a 13-point lead 12 minutes into action. The Warriors only once were able to cut the deficit into single figures, that coming when sophomore guard Taylor McBride (Willimantic) scored her only bucket of the game on a drive with four minutes left in the first half.
Eastern started two freshmen and three sophomores against Swarthmore's starting five of two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore.
Down by 16 at the half, Eastern lopped five points off the margin when sophomore guard Kristina Forsman (Newington) sank her only basket of the game - a three-pointer - and sophomore forward Shannon McCourt (New Fairfield) swished her only free throws of the contest 35 seconds later.
Featuring a balanced attack throughout the game, Swarthmore countered with seven points from junior guard Katie Lytle (two inside buckets and a jumper and resultant free throw), a drive by senior guard Madeline Ross and three-point field goal from junior guard Elizabeth Casey that pushed the lead to 18 six minutes into the second half.
McCourt, who represented Eastern on the all-tournament team, was the only Eastern player in double figures. After McCourt and her game-high 16 points were lifted with seven minutes left in the game, the Warriors featured a lineup of four freshmen and a sophomore which had accumulated all of eight points in the contest.
At right: Freshman Sarah Denihan connects on the first two-point field goal attempt of her career in the final minute against Swarthmore.
McCourt was 7-for-13 from the floor in the game but was the only Eastern player to shoot better than .500 percent from the field. Her plus-minus took a hit, however, as the Garnet's inside game produced uncontested points at will, most notably in the second half.
McCourt, who was 17-for-28 from the floor with 23 rebounds in two tournament games, shared team-high rebounding honors (seven) with freshman guard Jill Ritrosky (Pittsfield, MA). Freshman guard Brianna Leonard (Amherst, MA) had six points, three assists and two rebounds and was charged with only one turnover in 28 minutes.
Making her second collegiate appearance, freshman guard Sarah Denihan (East Hampton) connected on her first career two-point attempt with 52 seconds left for her first collegiate points, while sophomore guard Rabia Rawji (Danbury) collected her second career point with a free throw with 1:32 remaining.
Lytle, sophomore forward Elle Larsen and senior guard Madeline Ross were successful on 19 of 35 field goals and combined for 46 of Swarthmore's point total and 21 of the team's 33 rebounds. Junior guard Kayla Moritzky was held scoreless from the field in 32 minutes but contributed five steals and four assists.
Eastern looks for its first Little East Conference victory after two opening losses Saturday when it returns to Geissler Gymnasium for its first home game since Nov. 27 against Plymouth State University at 1 p.m.