Ayanbeku Leads Women's Hoops Over Rutgers-Newark in NJAC Opener, 68-55

Newark, NJ (12/2/09) - Junior forward Kisandra Ayanbeku (Brockton, MA / Randolph) scored 16 of her game-high 24 points in the second half as Montclair State held off several comeback attempts for a 68-55 win over Rutgers-Newark in the NJAC opener for both teams at the Golden Dome on Wednesday evening.

Senior guard Jackie Berry (Tuckerton, NJ / Pinelands Regional) added 12 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Red Hawks, who won their fourth straight, improving to 4-1 on the year (1-0 NJAC).

Montclair State trailed 14-7 in the early portion of the opening half, but erased that deficit quickly with a 9-0 run to take a 16-14 lead with 9:54 left on a three-point play by Ayanbeku. The game would be tied twice more, the last coming at 18-18, however MSU scored the next six points as Berry, Ayanbeku and Jamilee Pflug (Clark, NJ / Arthur L. Johnson) each scoring a basket for a 24-16 lead with 3:23 to go before halftime. A Berry hoop with 39 seconds left gave Montclair State a 27-21 lead at the break.

In the second half the Red Hawks quickly extended that lead to 12 points as Ayanbeku finished off a 6-0 run to start the half as Montclair State went up 33-21 with just over 18 minutes remaining. MSU would lead by as many as 15 on a Jaime Ericson (Flemington, NJ / Hunterdon Central) jumper with 14:51 left for a 44-29 advantage.

But Rutgers-Newark would claw back, slicing the lead down to 46-42. Berry hit two foul shots and Ayanbeku converted a layup as Montclair moved back in front 50-42 with 9:58 remaining. A layup by the Scarlet Raiders' Samantha Grippo put Rutgers-Newark within four again at 55-51 however Pflug scored on a layup and was fouled. She converted the three-point play as MSU moved out to a 58-51 lead with six minutes to go.

Pflug finished with eight points while Ericson chipped in with six points, five rebounds and two steals.

The Red Hawks are back home on Saturday, December 5 as they host No. 9 ranked Kean University beginning at 3:00 pm in the Panzer Athletic Center.