Women's Basketball: Offense powers Wildcats to semifinals
Despite being down by five at halftime, the UNH women's basketball scored 52 points in the second half during the America East quarterfinals against Vermont to win 85-79. The win is the first ever victory for the Wildcats over the Catamounts in America East tournament play. The Wildcats advance to the semifinals to take on Stony Brook on Sunday. Tip off is to be determined.
"I'm thrilled we found a way to pull that game out," head coach Maureen Magarity said. "A tremendous amount of credit to Vermont. I really felt that they came prepared today; their game plan was great."
Down by five at halftime, the Wildcats went on an 11-5 run over the first 3:06 to tie the game up at 44. After some back and forth play, junior captain Kaylee Kilpatrick put New Hampshire back in the lead with a layup and 14:06 to play. It was a short-lived lead, however, as the Catamounts got the lead back. After senior captain Kelsey Hogan got fouled, she made both attempts from the charity stripe to give UNH a 60-59 lead with 8:57 to go. New Hampshire never trailed again.
"Our leader, captain pulled through at the end of the game like she always does, Kelsey, and survived an advance like this today," Magarity said.
Up by three, Hogan nailed the 3 with 6:41 left to play. 38 seconds later, Gaston hit a 3-pointer, her first field goal of the game, to put New Hampshire an eight point lead. UVM never got within three.
"I was just full of emotion after hitting that 3," Hogan said. "It kind of got everything rolling again. We needed something like that and I knew we needed something like that in that moment."
"I think we did a much better job [in the second half] of taking care of the ball and really getting the most out of our possessions," Magarity said.
Gaston finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals, and a block over 39 minutes of play. Hogan scored 18 points to go along with five rebound and four assists. Forward Corinne Coia was the Wildcats leading scorer, notching 21 points on 7-9 shooting and adding eight assists, three assists and four blocks, a career high.
The Catamounts shot 44.8 percent for the game, going 4-20 from the 3-point line. The Wildcats shot 52.8 percent, going 5-10 from beyond the arc. The 52 points in a half and the 85 total points were both a season high for New Hampshire. UVM outrebounded UNH 41-33, but also picked up more fouls, 28 versus the Wildcats 19. The two teams combined for 82 points in the paint.
"We got the ball inside out a lot, we slowed down, we read the defense, we moved the ball well, and that's credit to the girls," Magarity said. "It was as simple as that. All I had to say was slow down and they made the adjustment."
"We picked up our defense from the first half, and I think throughout the entire season that is what we pride ourselves on, being a defensively tough team," Gaston said. "Once our defense started clicking that's what really leads to our offense, and from that point we were just rolling."
The Wildcats started off the first half well, forcing the Catamounts to shoot 3's while clogging up the inside game. Towards the end of the first half, however, Vermont was able to attack in the paint, going up by five by halftime. 20 of UVM's 38 first-half points were scored in the paint.
The Catamounts rebounded well in the half, recording eight offensive boards compared to the Wildcats one. Vermont finished the half off by making four of their last five field goals. Senior Kelsey Hogan was limited to eight minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. New Hampshire had 11 fouls, with Hogan accounting for three of them.
"You look up at the scoreboard and see Kelsey on the bench, Elizabeth is on the bench, Ariel is in foul trouble," Magarity said. "That's kind of been our, I don't want to say motto all year, but we're such a small team that we have to rely on everybody. Everybody is capable of having a big night with us, one thru nine to be honest with you. Most teams would probably panic when their top two scorers are on the bench but it's a normal day for us knowing just knowing that someone else can step up."
The Seawolves and Wildcats split the regular season games, with UNH winning 71-68 in overtime at home on Jan. 11 and Stony Brook winning 76-63 in New York on Feb. 9.
"It's always a great matchup when we play Stony Brook," Hogan said. "I know they have a chip on their shoulder from the last semi-final game, but also we have a chip on our shoulder from losing to them in the last conference game. Last time we played them at their court in the conference so it's going to be a battle. Two great teams, so there will be a great battle and a great game to watch."
Follow Arjuna Ramgopal on Twitter @ArjunaRamgopal
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