NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – Danica Dragicevic (Belgrade, Serbia/XV Beogradska Gimnazija) had a team-high 10 points and eight rebounds, but the Monmouth University women’s basketball team fell to Niagara, 48-45, Sunday afternoon at the “Taps” Gallagher Center. With the loss, the Hawks fall to 4-15 (3-5 MAAC), while the Purple Eagles improve to 5-12 (3-5 MAAC).
Mia Hopkins (Pittston, Pa./Pittston Area) and Christina Mitchell (Baltimore, Md./MATHS) scored seven points apiece, while Chevannah Paalvast (Auckland, New Zealand/Massey) and Jasmine Walker (North Brunswick, N.J./North Brunswick) added six points each. Walker also grabbed eight rebounds.
Victoria Rampado scored 21 of her 23 points in the second half to lead Niagara. Though the Hawks held Middletown South product Meghan McGuinness (44.8 3-pt. % entering the game) to 0-8 from long range, she finished with nine points on the strength of 7-for-8 shooting from the free-throw line. Gabby Baldasare led all rebounders with 13.
“Today is really disappointing,” said Monmouth Head Coach Jenny Palmateer. “There have been games where we’ve come on the short end of the stick that I’ve been pleased with and we’ve taken some steps in the right direction. Today was not one of those days. In the first half, we had a tremendous defensive effort, being able to hold them to 12 points was phenomenal. But we couldn’t put two halves together. Our energy level wasn’t where it needed to be. Our focus wasn’t where it needed to be, mentally and physically. It just wasn’t a good game for us.”
After each team scored four points at the outset of the game, Monmouth went on a 16-2 run to open a 14-point lead, 20-6, with 8:33 to go in the first half. Niagara responded with a 6-0 run to cut the Hawks’ lead to single digits before Walker found Dragicevic underneath for a lay-up at the 4:46 mark. Defense ruled the rest of the half as neither team scored in the rest of the stanza. Monmouth forced 17 Niagara turnovers in the first half and took a 9-2 edge in points off turnovers.
Underclassmen accounted for 20 of Monmouth’s 22 first-half points, led by Hopkins’ seven to go along with three steals. Dragicevic added six, while Mitchell had four. Walker grabbed a first-half-high six rebounds. The 12 points Monmouth held Niagara to in the first half were easily the fewest by a Monmouth opponent in the opening stanza of a game this season behind the 19 the Hawks held Siena to this past Monday in Loudonville, N.Y. Monmouth limited Niagara to 18.2 percent (4-22) shooting in the first half.
In the second half, Niagara cut the Hawks’ lead to 27-25 on a pair of Rampado free throws at the 11:24 mark before the Hawks pushed the lead back to 11, 36-25, with a 9-0 run capped by two Walker free throws at the 8:50 mark. A 10-2 Niagara run cut the lead to three, and after a pair of Mitchell free throws, the Purple Eagles scored seven more points consecutively. Rampado gave Niagara its first lead of the game, 42-40, at the 4:06 mark. The game was tied at 42-42 and 44-44 before Paalvast made 1-of-2 free throws with 1:40 left. Taylor McKay responded with a driving lay-up with 1:25 left to put Niagara up for good.
The Hawks got a defensive stop down one with 28 seconds left, but a pass into the post was knocked out of bounds by Niagara with 10 seconds left. After Palmateer called the Hawks’ final timeout, Monmouth inbounded to Paalvast, before the senior was stripped and Niagara caused a tie-up with 6.2 seconds left. The possession arrow was pointing the Purple Eagles’ way and Val McQuade knocked down a pair of free throws with 5.6 seconds left. Helena Kurt (Spanga, Sweden/Igelstavikens Gymnasium) dribbled the length of the court before getting off a three-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer, but it would not fall.
“We have to get better,” said Palmateer. “We’re going to get back to the drawing board. We have to keep working on fundamentals. Little things cost us in this game. We did a decent enough job holding their two big scorers down and then they have [Rampado] go off for 23 points. It’s just not acceptable. I think it was a direct result of our lack of focus and energy.”
For the game, Niagara outshot Monmouth, 30.2 percent (16-53) to 28.3 percent (17-60) from the floor. Monmouth took a slight 6.3 percent (1-16) to 0.0 percent (0-10) edge from long range and a 71.4 percent (10-14) to 69.6 percent (16-23) advantage from the free-throw line. Niagara outrebounded the Hawks, 49-35, while the Hawks forced 23 Niagara turnovers to their own 16.
The Hawks return to MAAC action Friday, when they return home to face Iona. Opening tip from the Multipurpose Activity Center is slated for 7 p.m.