Women's Basketball Rallies Past Stevens, 66-54

Hoboken, NJ (11/29/09) – Junior forward Kisandra Ayanbeku (Brockton, MA / Randolph) and senior forward Catherine Cristino (Farmingdale, NJ / Colts Neck) each netted 18 points as Montclair State turned up the defensive pressure in the second half in a 66-54 victory over Stevens at the DeBaum Athletic Center on Sunday afternoon.

Junior Jamilee Pflug (Clark, NJ / Arthur L. Johnson) and senior Jackie Berry (Tuckerton, NJ / Pinelands Regional) each added 11 points for the Red Hawks (3-1), who won their third straight game following a six-point, season-opening loss to fifth-ranked Scranton on November 15.

Montclair State led by two with 12 minutes left in the opening half, but junior center Victoria O'Connor netted her first points of the day to knot the game at 11, kick-starting a 9-2 Stevens run that gave the Ducks an 18-13 lead at the 7:10 mark. After a Ayanbeku layup cut the Red Hawk deficit to four, Stevens senior guard Sarah Gehring connected from long range to give the Ducks their largest lead of the half.

Hoping to pare down the Stevens lead, Montclair State scored seven of the game’s next nine points to slice the Ducks edge to one with just 1:18 left in the first, but a 4-1 Stevens rally to close out the half secured a four-point Ducks lead heading into the intermission, 29-25.

Four-straight Red Hawk points coming out of the break tied the contest at the 19-minute mark, but four consecutive Brittany Fuller points coupled with an O’Connor layup gave Stevens a six-point cushion. Still up six following a Dawn Garcia jumper and Gehring free-throw, Jillian Barrett converted a three-point play the old-fashioned way, to give the Ducks a 10-point edge with 14:05 left.

Montclair State responded by turning up the heat defensively, holding Stevens to 1-for-8 shooting with four turnovers over the next seven minutes of action, while the Red Hawks mounted a 16-2 run to take a 50-46 lead.  Cristino ignited the run with a three-pointer and scored the first six points with Ayanbeku sinking the final five, including a three-pointer with 7:36 to play that gave Montclair State the lead for good.

After a Fuller jumper and Kathleen Schuckers layup tied the game for the sixth time, Montclair State once again ratcheted up the pressure, employing a full-court press that forced three more turnovers over the next three and a half minutes, as the Red Hawks scored 10 unanswered points to take a 10-point lead with 1:16 remaining, securing their third victory of the season.

Despite being outrebounded 45-26,  Montclair State had 12 fewer turnovers than their Stevens counterparts. The Red Hawks took full advantage of the Ducks’ miscues, netting 26 points on 26 Ducks turnovers. MSU also limited the Ducks to just 9-of-25 shooting in the second half and 37 percent from the floor overall.

Pflug added seven assists, three rebounds and four assists while Ayanbeku grabbed a team-best eight rebounds.

The Red Hawks return to action on Wednesday, December 2 when they open New Jersey Athletic Conference play with a road contest at Rutgers-Newark. Montclair and the Scarlet Raiders are slated to tip off at 6:00 pm.