Nov. 26, 2013
LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. - Light snow may have been falling outside the ARC, but inside it was a full blown blizzard. Led by a program-record tying 10 steals from freshman guard Emia Willingham, Siena's blizzard defense forced 30 turnovers in a 58-53 win over Sacred Heart.
The Albany High product fueled the Saints (3-2) with a team-high 17 points in just 22 minutes off the bench and finished just three rebounds shy of a triple-double as Siena rallied from a 10-point second half deficit to finish with the program's first winning November in 13 years. Her 10 thefts - which tied a Siena record shared by Shawn Shafer (Jan. 30, 1988) and Mary Fuchs (Jan. 19, 1989) - were also tied for the second most in MAAC history.
Sophomore forward Symone Kelly added career-highs of 11 points and nine rebounds in just 14 minutes off the bench and freshman frontcourt mate Meghan Donohue contributed 10 points and seven rebounds as the Saints' held a 38-16 advantage in points in the paint.
Siena trailed 20-19 following an ugly first half in which the Saints shot just 18.8% (6-32) from the field and Sacred Heart (2-3) wasn't much better at 21.7% (5-23). The Pioneers scored the first nine points of the second half to take their biggest lead of the game, 29-19 at the 16:09 mark.
But that's when Willingham and the Saints began to capitalize off their steals and translate them into fastbreak scoring opportunities. The Saints tallied four steals and scored six of their 18 fasbtreak points during a key 12-0 run to reclaim a 38-33 lead at the 9:53 mark.
But a battle tested veteran Sacred Heart team which won 22 games and played in the WNIT a year ago, battled back. The teams exchanged five lead changes and two ties down the stretch setting up a nail biting finish.
Gabrielle Washington drilled a pair of lead changing threes in the closing minutes, the second of which gave Sacred Heart a 53-52 lead with 1:11 remaining. But Kanika Cummings gave Siena back the lead for good with a driving layup on the ensuing possession as the Saints rallied for a second straight game in the final minute to win.
Siena tallied 21 steals against a Sacred Heart team that entered the night averaging a Northeast Conference low 13.3 turnovers per game. The Saints, which led the MAAC in turnovers forced last season thanks in large part to their blizzard defense, end November forcing 24.4 turnovers per game on the strength of 11.8 steals per contest.
Washington led all scorers with 19 points and seven rebounds for Sacred Heart, while Katie Shepard added 10 points off the bench for the Pioneers.
The Saints return to the court Tuesday for a 7 p.m. tipoff at Central Connecticut.