McWhirter Leads Stonehill Past Saint Anselm, 59-49

Senior Kristen McWhirter poured in a career-high 29 points to lead the Skyhawks past Saint Anselm tonight. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr) 

Skyhawks clinch home court for opening round of NE-10 Tournament

MANCHESTER, N.H. (February 16, 2011) – Stonehill College clinched home court advantage for the opening round of the upcoming Northeast-10 Conference Tournament with a 59-49 victory over Saint Anselm College in NE-10 women's basketball action at Stoutenburgh Gymnasium tonight.

Senior guard Kristen McWhirter (Melvin Village, N.H./New Hampton Prep) led the way for Stonehill in her last scheduled trip to her home state with a career-high 29 points as she made 10-of-14 shots from the field, including 4-for-8 from three-point range, while converting 5-of-7 free-throw attempts to go with four rebounds. While no other Skyhawk scored in double-figures, contributions were made by senior Emily Rousseau (Biddeford, Maine/Biddeford) who finished with nine points and five assists, and freshman Mary Louise Dixon (Wellesley, Mass./Wellesley) added eight points, four boards, three steals and two assists. Freshman Asia Ewing (Westford, Mass./Westford Academy) chipped in with a team-high nine rebounds.

Junior Megan Howard (St. Paul, Minn./Central) came off the bench to lead Saint Anselm with a double-double effort of 16 points and a game-best 13 rebounds in 26 minutes. Classmate Epiphany Smith (Springdale, Ark./Har-Ber) added 14 points, three boards and two steals, while freshman Meg Morrissey (South Kingstown, R.I./South Kingstown) posted eight points, three boards and two assists.

Senior Emily Rousseau contributed nine points and five assists tonight. (PHOTO BY Bert Lane) 

Stonehill finished shooting 41.2-percent (21-for-51) from the field, including 48% (12-25) in the first half to build a 13-point halftime advantage, and 6-for-14 (42.9%) from three-point range for the night. Despite being on the short end of a 37-31 Saint Anselm rebounding advantage, the Skyhawks outscored the Hawks 21-4 for second chance points. Saint Anselm shot 36-percent (18-for-50) from the field, including just 1-for-8 (12.5%) from beyond the arc, while converting 12-of-13 (92.3%) free-throw attempts. The Hawks shot just 29.6% (8-27) in the first half to dig a hole it would not get out of.

Stonehill closed out the first half with a 19-2 run over the final 9:07 of the frame to turn a four point deficit (17-13) after a "Hail Mary" three-pointer from Smith as the shot clock expired into a 13-point lead (32-19) at the break. McWhirter sparked the run with a three and Dixon gave the Skyhawks the lead for good with a steal and layup with 8:17 to play in the frame. Stonehill held Saint Anselm scoreless for nearly four minutes to gain a four point lead (23-19) with 5:30 left, and then scored the final nine points of the half over the final 5:30.

Back to back baskets by junior Tania Williams (South Setauket, N.Y./Ward-Melville) pushed the Skyhawks lead into double-figures (29-19) with 1:16 to play. Dixon and Rousseau capped the scoring in the half with a layup and free-throw, respectively. Rousseau opened the second half with a three-pointer and McWhirter added a layup as Stonehill quickly opened an 18 point (37-19) lead less than two minutes into the second half.

The Stonehill lead grew to 20 (54-34) after a jumper from Rousseau capped a 10-2 run. McWhirter chipped in six points during that stretch. Saint Anselm wouldn't go down quietly, using a 13-2 run to close within nine (56-47) with 1:50 left. The Skyhawks didn't allow the Hawks any closer, however, as they held the hosts to just one field goal the rest of the way, while converting five of seven at the line to seal it.

Stonehill (16-9, 11-9 NE-10) returns to action on Saturday to host Southern New Hampshire University for Senior Day at Merkert Gymnasium at 1:30 p.m. Saint Anselm (10-14, 7-13 NE-10) is back in action on Saturday when it visits UMass Lowell at 1:30 p.m.