helena kurt

Women’s Basketball Splits with Fairfield, Falls to Canisius

helena kurtThe University women’s basketball team broke Fairfield University’s two game winning streak last week with a convincing 59-33 win at home on Sunday, Jan. 25. 

The Stags were flying high after two straight conference wins against Rider and St. Peter’s, but were welcomed into West Long Branch by a motivated Hawks team. MU was led by sophomore guard Helena Kurt, who finished with a game high 15 points. 

“I think it was a team effort today, everyone was extremely focused and knew the player personal well,” said Kurt, a former U20 Swedish National team player. “We moved the ball well and created for each other which opened up opportunities for me and the rest of my teammates.” 

The Hawks jumped out to an 18-7 lead after ten minutes of play, earmarked by two long range triples by sophomore forward Christina Mitchell

Although MU certainly displayed their scoring capabilities, the true story of the contest lies within the defense. This was the first time all season the Hawks held their opponent under 40 points. 

With just under nine minutes left in the first half, MU stifled the Stags for six straight possessions pushing them into half time with a 28-16 lead and momentum undoubtedly in the Hawks favor. 

“I think we played awesome today,” said senior forward Sara English. “Everyone was focused on our game plan, and we had high energy throughout the entire game. We executed our game plan perfectly, and played great defense to keep Fairfield from scoring. It was an overall great team win and we’re excited to keep building off this win.” 

The Stags finished the game with a 20 percent field-goal percentage, while the Hawks shot 36.5 percent from the floor. MU capitalized on Fairfield’s off night with 27 second-half points to close out the game and secure the win. 

Despite a season-high 1,572 fans, MU could not keep momentum from the Fairfield game going after a five day layoff, and fell to Canisius College in a tightly contested matchup on Friday, Jan. 30. 

MU entered the game with a record of 8-11 overall and 4-6 in conference with a win pushing them ahead of the Golden Griffins in the standings. 

Unlike their previous game against Fairfield, MU would be without Kurt due to back spasms. Although her absence left the Hawks with an uphill battle, Kurt was still confident in her teams chances. 

“We have a lot of energy, intensity and momentum going into the game,” said Kurt before the contest. “We’re excited for another opportunity; our team is focused and ready for another win.”

The opening six minutes of the game were lackluster for both MAAC opponents, as the two teams combined for twelve turnovers. 

Sophomore guard Jamiyah Bethune and junior forward Amanda Offenback led the Hawks as both finished in double digits. Bethune’s finishing ability in the paint and Offenback’s long range capabilities kept MU on pace with the Golden Griffin’s in the first half. Both teams struggled to find a rhythm as Canisius led by eight going into the break. 

Early moments of the second half showed MU in a less than flattering light as Canisius went on to score eight unanswered points. 

Bethune drained a deep three to break the momentum, only to be followed by a three point play from Canisius forward Crystal Porter. 

Basketball is a game of runs and that saying held true as MU would make a run of their own shortly after, scoring ten unanswered to cut the lead to two.

At one point the Hawks were only down by two, however, the Golden Griffin’s held tight and would score 25 points in the last ten minutes of action fortifying their gritty road win at 75-58. The loss put the Hawks at 8-12 overall and 4-7 in conference play.

Canisius showed their depth as three separate Golden Griffin’s scored in double digits. Senior guard Kayla Hoohuli led her team, and all scorers, with 19 points.

“Canisius did a great job today,” said MU Head Coach Jenny Palmateer. “They were the team that played harder and it paid off for them.  They won all the one on one battles, beating us to loose balls, rebounds, etc. They deserved the win because they were the better team today.”

MU then suffered its second straight loss to the Fairfield Stags in overtime on Sunday, Feb. 1, exactly seven days after thrashing the Stags by 26 points. 

MU Head Coach Jenny Palmateer understood the Stags would be determined for this rematch after being embarrassed during their trip to West Long Branch. 

“Our mindset going into the game will be to focus on us,” said Coach Palmateer, now in her fourth year with the Hawks. “We will be facing an extremely talented Fairfield team on their home court that will undoubtedly be out for revenge. We will have to be ready for that intensity and match it by playing with a lot of energy and executing extremely well.”

Offenback and Mitchell led MU in scoring, and were the only Hawks to reach double digits for the game. Offenback was good for 11 points, and has shown consistency and maturity in her play over the past three games, while Mitchell secured a double-double notching 14 points and 14 rebounds. 

Neither team would show much of their cards early on as the Stags led the Hawks 9-8 through the first ten minutes. But as the first half wore on, the home team would begin to take control. Minutes later, the Stags extended their lead and pulled away by nine points heading into the final five minutes of the half. The nine point lead would remain intact for the Stags as they went into the locker room up 26-17.

Leading Fairfield in the first half was red-shirt sophomore forward Casey Smith. She finished the night with 14 points. 

As the second half began, the Hawks were noticeably motivated while complacency seemed to be creeping into the Stags efforts. MU began to chip away at the lead, and with just about eleven minutes left, the Hawks would pull in front, 31-30. 

Then the contest became wide open as neither team asserted much control. As the game inched closer to its end, the teams remained deadlocked, seemingly destined for overtime. The clock ran out leaving these MAAC rivals knotted 41-41 with OT looming. 

Overtime began and both teams were up to play, but with an extra days rest over the Hawks Fairfield began to take control. With just over a minute left, the Stags sat comfortably with a 50-44 lead over MU. 

However the Stags would need every ounce of their energy to get out of this one with a win. MU stormed back and with nine seconds left the Hawks found themselves with possession down 54-49. MU’s junior guard, Sarah Olson, drilled a triple and brought the Hawks within two. This was as close as the Hawks would get, however, as the clock would run out with the Stags ahead 54-52. 

“I thought we did a really good job sticking with Fairfield,” said Offenback. “We knew that they were coming out looking for revenge. We followed our plan and had some big plays at the right times. We just ran out of time, but I’m proud of the fight we showed.”

Although MU didn’t come out of Connecticut with a win, the Hawks will look to carry this momentum into their next game and get some much need rest after a tough stretch. 

The Hawks will travel to Jersey City on Thursday, Feb. 5 for a 2 pm tipoff against conference rival St. Peter’s University.

PHOTO COURTESY of Taylor Jackson