NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – Casey Smithscored 14 points of her team-high matching 18 points and grabbed five important offensive rebounds in the second half, leading the Fairfield University Women’s Basketball team to a 65-55 victory over Niagara. The win was their fifth in the last six games, and the first for the Stags at the ‘Taps’ Gallagher Center in three years.
The Stags (9-9, 6-3 MAAC) needed the grittiness that Smith showed in the final period after Niagara’s leading scorer Victoria Rampado led a 7-0 run to put the Purple Eagles (5-14, 2-8 MAAC) down one point at 48-47 with exactly eight minutes to play in the game. The Stags would call a timeout as Niagara was controlling the boards with 10 offensive rebounds, doubling the Stags with five.
Smith would solve that Fairfield problem as she basically put the team on her back after that timeout. Smith missed two layups, but grabbed both offensive rebounds and finally converted at the rim while picking up the foul, earning a 3-point play. After a Fairfield missed free throw on the next possession, Smith flew for the offensive board, saving the possession which eventually led to a Casey Foley3-pointer and extended the largest lead for the Stags to 56-47.
The Stags ran with that momentum, leading by as many as 13 points in grabbing their second-straight win in the series against Niagara.
Smith was the next in line to step up after Kelsey Careywent to the bench with her third foul early in the third quarter after the senior tallied 14 points. It was that third quarter where the Stags tried to pull away by stepping up their defensive efforts by holding Niagara to just two field goals, but with the rebounds and nine free throws, the Purple Eagles were able to stay in the game by trailing by just five going to the final period.
The Purple Eagles stayed within striking distance basically the entire game, even though the Stags enjoyed their most balanced offensive efforts of the season with eight players reaching the scoring column.
The first quarter saw both teams share the ball with four players on each team score during the first 10 minutes. The Stags saw their three post players get in the scoring column first with Samantha Cooper, playing just miles from her hometown of Ontario,hitting the two longest shots as her 3-pointer with 40 seconds left tied the game at 12-12. Cooper’s trifecta stopped a 5-0 run by the Purple Eagles which featured a go-ahead 3-pointer by Jamie Sherburne and a layup by Rampado.
The Stags would not trail in the second quarter but they still had to battle throughout the entire period. Fairfield riled off a 5-0 run to grab their largest lead of the night at 24-18 on a jumper by Carey, but the Purple Eagles would not go away. Tiffany Corselli scored back-to-back baskets to allow Niagara to tie the score at 26-26 before Carey gave the Stags the lead again with a contested jumper. Niagara would tie the game for the sixth time in the first half, but Kristine Miller’s spinning layup beat the first half buzzer and gave the Stags a 30-28 lead.
The Stags shot 52 percent (11-for-21) from the field including a 57 percent (4-for-7) mark from behind the 3-point arc in the first half. The Canadian native Cooper hit three of her four long range attempts to help the Stags put up those accurate numbers.
For the game, the three Stags post players reached double figures with Carey and Smith tying for the team lead with 18 points. Smith led the Stags with eight boards while Foley, who is averaging 6.0 assists in her last three games, led the Stags with five dishes. Smith also hit her first two free throws before missing her final attempt which gave her 21-straight free throws before that streak was snapped. It was the longest by any Stag player since Janelle McManus converted 22-straight back in 2004.
Rampado recorded a double-double for the Purple Eagles with game-highs of 20 points and 12 rebounds.
The Stags are back in action on Sunday when they end their Western New York swing by visiting Canisius at 2pm on ESPN3.