W Basketball 11.15.17

Women’s Basketball Wins Season Opener

The Monmouth University women’s basketball team defeated the Sacred Heart Pioneers, 69-64 in their season opener Friday night at the OceanFirst Bank Center.

Sophomore guard Kayla Shaw led the Hawks with 22 points on 8-12 shooting, including four 3-point shots. Senior guard Rhaiah Spooner-Knight scored 11 points in her Monmouth debut, and three players contributed eight in the contest.

“I was so excited for this season,” Shaw said after the game. “So this feels really good. As a team, we played well through adversity today. It was a great first game of learning and adjusting.”

The two teams played a tightly-contested first quarter that featured five lead changes. Scoring 12 points in the paint in the opening ten minutes, the Pioneers used a 5-0 scoring run to close out the first quarter with an 18-14 lead. Monmouth fell behind by five early in the second quarter, before the Hawks stormed back on a layup by Spooner-Knight, a three from Shaw, and a three from sophomore guard Alaina Jarnot to give them a 22-19 lead. Sacred Heart responded by outscoring Monmouth 10-4 in the final seven minutes of the quarter to make the halftime score 29-26.

The third quarter featured five lead changes, as the Hawks took a lead in the final minute on a Shaw three before the Pioneers scored on a layup in the final seconds to tie the game at 42 after 30 minutes of play.

The fourth quarter featured more of the same, as the two teams stayed within two points of each other for the first five minutes of the quarter. Spooner-Knight hit a three with 4:30 remaining in the game to give the Hawks their largest lead of the half, at 53-50. A layup from Shaw gave Monmouth a lead of five a minute later, but the Pioneers converted on two layups to make it a 57-56 game with two minutes remaining. Shaw hit a three-point shot with 1:30 remaining to boost the Hawk lead to four, and Monmouth would did not look back from there. The team hit nine free throws in the final minute to close out the Pioneers for their first victory of the season.

“Sacred Heart hit some huge shots, but I was really proud of our team,” Head Coach Jenny Palmateer said after the game. “We were able to switch defenses a little bit, and I think that made a big difference.”

For the game, Monmouth shot 40 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range. The key to the game, however, came at the free-throw line, where the Hawks shot 92.9 percent, compared to a 60.7 percent mark during the 2016 season. The Hawks outscored the Pioneers 18-4 in bench points, continuing a trend from last season in which they outscored opponents’ benches in 29 of their 31 games.

Shaw scored in double figures for the 20th time in her career, and came two points short of her career high of 24.

This is the second consecutive season in which the Hawks have opened with a victory, defeating Robert Morris 69-56 last November, only this time they did it at home.

“It’s awesome to be at home,” Palmateer said. “Anytime you can get a win at home, it’s almost a must. I’m really happy for our kids, and I couldn’t think of a better way to start the season.”

The Hawks look to build off their opening night victory as they host two games this week, playing Lehigh on Tuesday night, and Albany on Thursday night. Both games tip-off at 7:00 p.m., and both games can be found on WMCX 88.9 FM and ESPN3.