NORTON, MA- The fourth-seeded Wheaton College women's basketball team won its fourth straight New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament first-round game with Wednesday's 62-56 victory over number-five Smith College in Emerson Gymnasium.
The Lyons will travel to Babson Park on Saturday to take on top seed Babson College in a semifinal round game at 1:00 p.m. in a rematch of last year's championship contest. Improving its overall record to 16-10, Wheaton remained unbeaten at home through 15 conference tournament games since 1990. With a 14-10 mark, Smith will await word on a possible Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Tournament bid.
Senior Ida Kruse (Vershire, VT/Rivendell Academy) paced the Lyons with 17 points, going 7-of-13 from the floor. Classmate Andrea Bailey (Needham, MA/Needham) and freshman Jeana Trimboli (Norwalk, CT/Trinity Catholic) contributed 12 points apiece. Knocking down all seven of her free-throw tries, Bailey also posted game highs of nine rebounds, six assists and six steals. With her six helpers, Bailey broke the program record for single-season assists.
Smith senior Lisa Marie Vuono (Lyndhurst, NJ/Montclair Kimberley Academy) went 9-of-11 from the field to finish with a game-best 18 points and three steals. Freshman Devon Quattrocchi (Brewster, NY/Brewster) turned in 13 points off the bench, while senior Berit Schelde (Holstebro, Denmark/Falkonergaardens) added 11 points and three assists.
Wheaton shot 44.7 percent for the game while making 89.5 percent of its free throws. The Pioneers hit 40.0 percent of their shots but just 56.3 percent from the charity stripe. The Lyons held a 33-25 rebounding advantage and forced 15 turnovers, while Smith had a 16-11 edge in points off turnovers, as the Blue and White finished with 19 giveaways.
After yielding the game's first basket 28 seconds in, Wheaton used a 13-2 run over 5:41 to lead 13-4 with 13:19 to play before intermission. Five different Lyons scored during the run, with Trimboli having five points. Smith answered with a 12-4 spurt during 5:34 to close within 17-16 at 7:13, as Vuono scored eight for the Pioneers in the stretch, before the hosts went on a 10-2 run over 3:12 for a 27-18 edge with a little more than two minutes to go. Smith scored the half's final four points in the last 25 seconds to trail 27-22 at the break.
Wheaton pushed its advantage out to six five times to begin the second half, but the visitors hung tough, closing to within one at 43-42 at 7:53. The Lyons scored the next seven, which was capped by a Trimboli three with 5:43 left, to give Wheaton at 50-42 advantage. A Bailey triple kept the margin at eight before Smith reeled off six straight points in trimming its deficit to 53-51 at 3:48. With her team leading 57-55, Kruse hit a running bank shot with 47.7 ticks left, and following a visitor miss, Bailey knocked down a pair of freebies with 28 seconds remaining to seal the win.