Messiah Comes Out On All Cylinders; Thumps Arcadia 69-38
By Keaton Kasiguran, GoMessiah.com reporter
If history is any indicator, Messiah women’s basketball is not “most teams.”
After suffering a tough, 42-58 road loss to conference rival Lebanon Valley College Wednesday, the Falcons bounced back today to handle Arcadia University 69-38 Saturday afternoon at Brubaker Auditorium — the program’s 50th straight regular-season Commonwealth Conference win at home.
Messiah kept control of play throughout Saturday’s contest and didn’t allow the Knights to establish any sort of rhythm offensively, scoring the game’s first 11 points before running away with the team’s fourth win of the year by 30 points or more.
It was exactly the kind of response head coach Mike Miller said he wanted from his team, especially with the high-profile matchup with #7/#6 University of Scranton looming ahead.
“I liked the way we practiced (after Wednesday’s loss), and I liked our mindset,” Miller said. “I think we were a team ready to get back on the court.”
Messiah (15-2, 6-1) looked to be just that on both ends of the court Saturday, keeping Arcadia (4-12, 0-7) from converting on any of its first seven attempts from the field. The first nine of Messiah’s initial eleven points came courtesy of freshman forward Dori Gyori, and when she was replaced at the 15:48 mark by forward Kira Maier, Gyori’s fellow freshman finished the early run with a layup 50 seconds later.
However, as soon as Arcadia got on the bored with just over 14 minutes left in the first period, a loss of concentration by Messiah opened the door for the visitors to cut the home team’s lead to six points. Unfortunately for the Knights, that was the closest they would get to catching the Falcons on the night, as the Falcons put on a 17-0 run in the span of four and a half minutes — taking a 30-7 lead with 3:56 to play in the opening period.
“I thought we started well tonight,” Miller said of his team’s early run. “We were working hard to get the easy baskets, and our pressure did not allow them to get off good shots early on. As soon as we had a lack of ball pressure, though, we started to get sloppy and turn the ball over.”
As the half drew to a close, Messiah’s regained their composure, and their lead began to grow. With freshman guard Nicky Hess and sophomore guard Anna Walker both nailing a pair of three-pointers, things started to open up the Falcons down low. Baskets from Maier, junior forward Michele Schleich and sophomore forward Karolena Szolack extended Messiah’s advantage to 36-13 at halftime.
During the second period, Miller utilized his team’s depth to great effect, with his subs registering 18 total points in the half. The Knights, who only had seven players rostered, simply couldn’t keep up.
Messiah — ranked 10th in the latest USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches Poll and eighth in the latest D3hoops.com ballot — led by as many as 35 points in the final 20 minutes.
“We really wanted to take the second half as an opportunity to get better in some areas,” Miller remarked. “I was really proud of the way our girls kept their focus.”
Another pair of threes from Walker with a little less than 12 minutes to play, and eight more points from Maier in the closing stages solidified Messiah’s return to winning ways. Walker, Maier, and Gyori all finished the game in double digits, each collecting 12 points on the day to lead the home team. Schleich, who went a perfect 3-3 from the field, finished the game with four assists and four steals respectively.
Gyori grabed a team-leading eight rebounds. Messiah shot 47.5 percent from the field (29 of 61 overall), a grand improvement from Wednesday evening’s season-low 26.4 percent in the loss at Lebanon Valley.
With the first round of league play complete, Messiah takes a brief hiatus from Commonwealth action, hosting the University of Scranton in the aforementioned clash Wednesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Brubaker Auditorium.
“We need to play our game on Wednesday,” Miller said. “It’s got to be about us.”