MARS HILL, N.C. –After a stellar shooting performance in the first half that saw Anderson University women’s basketball fire 51.6 percent from the field and drain eight 3-pointers, the Trojans held off Mars Hill 78-71 in South Atlantic Conference action Wednesday evening at Stanford Arena.
Leading the way was junior Lesley Woods, who connected on 5-of-10 3-pointers, including four in the first half, en route to a team-high 17 points, giving her double figures in three of the last four games. Following Woods was classmates Sierra Simpson and Jasmine Franklin with 14 points and 12 points, respectively, as the duo has scored in double digits eight times this season. Freshman Heather Jankowy posted 10 points, as sophomore Jennifer Monroe grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
Despite the road victory that avoided AU to fall below .500 for the second time this season, the Trojans were unable to contain sophomore forward Kelsey Espinosa who poured in a game-high 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Preseason All-SAC Second Team selection Ansley Ricker, the team’s leading scorer, finished with 15 points, while Genice Lane dropped in 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
With Lane’s nine rebounds, the Trojans minimized MHU’s output on the boards, winning the battle underneath 49-31, including 17 offensive rebounds. AU improved to 6-1 when out-rebounding its opponent.
“This was a really good win on the road against a tough, scrappy and well-coached Mars Hill team,” Anderson head coach Jimmy Garrity said. “I am really happy for our players. They have worked extremely hard and have remained positive and upbeat through this tough stretch. I’m really proud of our effort down the stretch to hang on and get defensive stops, rebounds and converting from the free throw line.”
After the teams swapped the lead five times in the opening 10 minutes of action, Anderson faced a 18-17 deficit after Lane put in a lay-up. After the basket, the Trojans started a 7-0 run beginning with back-to-back 3-pointers from Woods and sophomore Madison Floyd, giving Anderson a 24-18 advantage.
MHU stormed back and brought the lead within four twice in the next minute, but AU began its second convincing run of the half at 8-2 over the next two minutes, beginning with Woods’ second trey of the half.
The Trojans would eventually take their largest lead of the period of 15 when Franklin dropped in a lay-up for two of her 10 points for the first half. Mars Hill was able to chip away at the early double digit deficit as the Lions strung together a 9-0 run to move the score to 44-38 with a minute remaining. A Woods 3-pointer was the lone score of the final minute to send the Trojans into the locker room leading, 47-38.
After the break, Espinosa tried to bring Mars Hill (2-11, 1-8 SAC) back with back-to-back lay-ins, sending the score to 47-42. The Black and Gold responded quickly as Simpson scored on a runner in the lane, commencing an 11-0 run with Simpson scoring six points in the span that lasted just five minutes.
With their biggest lead of the game at 16, the Lions began their comeback and brought the AU lead to five at the 8:04 mark after Cadence Wilmoth dropped in a pair of free throws. After Anderson scored five straight points, the Lions began their second run of the half and eventually brought the game within one at 69-68 with 2:54 left.
Espinosa had a chance to even the score, but connected on 1-of-2 from the line and Woods answered the MHU run with her final 3-pointer of the game and 106th of her career, moving her two made 3-pointers from tying for 10th all-time in program history.
After the Woods’ trey, Espinosa answered with a lay-in to bring the score to 72-70 with 2:22 left. Following the basket, MHU came up empty on the next five possessions as free throws from Simpson and Jankowy closed the contest, giving Anderson (8-7, 4-5 SAC) its first win of 2014.
The Trojans snap a four-game losing streak and score over 70 points for a game for the first time since scoring 87 against Newberry. Anderson is now 6-2 when leading at halftime this season.
AU looks to continue its winning ways and look for the season sweep as Lenoir-Rhyne visits the Upstate on Saturday. Tip-off from the Abney Athletic Center is set for 2 p.m.