By Monica D’Ippolito
NORTHAMPTON, MA — The State University of New York at New Paltz women’s basketball team fell on the road to hosting Smith College Thursday, 62-54.
The Hawks (6-3 overall) limited the Pioneers (9-1) to just one made basket from the perimeter but had trouble stopping Smith underneath the basket with forward Morgan Morrison dominating in the paint with 14 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive glass, to go along with her game-high 19 points.
Smith scored more than half of its points in the paint as a team and outrebounded SUNY New Paltz, 41-32, including 16-4 on the offensive glass with the Hawks committing 18 turnovers to the Pioneers 11.
“Morrison dominated from start to finish,” said Hawks coach Jamie Seward. “She’s a tough, physical player, but to be honest we were far more concerned with [Smith leading scorer Katelyn Pickunk]. However, Morrison really had her way and it seemed like every time we needed a stop and got one she kept the possession alive. Between her and [Dashelle] Gleissner’s aggressive play defensively they just had way too many more possessions than us.”
Smith opened up the game with a 7-1 lead. Lexi Van Vorst hit the first shot for SUNY New Paltz with 8:45 left in the quarter on a 3-pointer off a screen. Seward inserted forward Semaiah Williams onto the floor to help on the boards with Smith stretching its lead to 15-8 midway through the first quarter. Maddie Gillis helped stall momentum for the hosts, as the junior hit six-straight points to cut the score to 19-17, first swishing a transition trey and then earning an and-1 next time down the floor. After a defensive stop, Gillis found Victoria Venus on a back-cut to tie the game at 19-all, which stuck until the end of the quarter.
Smith continued its prowess on the glass, which helped establish a five-point lead to open up the second period. Cassidy Deaver broke up the run, making a nice move to the basket to score her first points of the game. Gillis with another great pass, this time to Graci Serravillo on a back-cut, helped trim the deficit to three halfway through the quarter. Gillis and Brianna Fitzgerald then scored on back-to-back possessions to get the Hawks within one with less than two minutes left.
Morrison responded for the Pioneers, getting her shot to go underneath following an inbounds play on the far sideline. Gillis once again answered, grabbing an offensive board off a miss from Fitzgerald to cut the difference to one. But, Pickunka ended the half with the last points before the break, scoring on a reverse layup to give Smith a 32-29 lead after 20 minutes.
The Poineers outrebounded the Hawks, 21-12, in the first half including eight boards on the offensive glass. They also took advantage in the paint, scoring 20 of their 32 first-half points inside with 6-foot Morris leading the way with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go along with five rebounds, three of which on the offensive end.
Smith carried the momentum into the second half, as it took its largest lead at 43-31 four minutes into the third quarter. Serravillo broke up the run after knocking down a baseline jumper bringing the difference back to 10, but the Pioneers took advantage of uncanny turnovers from the Hawks and pushed their advantage to 11 until a made 3-pointer by Jenny Walton cut the hosts lead, 47-39 at the end of the period.
SUNY New Paltz worked its way back to one with seven minutes to play following a strong finish in the lane by Fitzgerald, but Morrison continued to dominate inside and answered for Smith. She scored seven of her team-leading 19 points in the fourth and pulled down seven rebounds, five of which were on the offensive glass in the final 10 minutes to help close out the game for the hosts.
Fitzgerald got the Hawks to within four with less than two minutes left, but the Pioneers forced a turnover on the next SUNY New Paltz offensive possession. Smith missed on its ensuing attempt down the floor, but another turnover gave the ball back to the Pioneers with less than a minute to go. The Hawks were forced to intentionally foul with time winding down and Smith iced the game from there.
“They made winning plays, and we sat back and waited for a victory to fall into our lap,” Seward said. “That certainly isn’t going to happen against this caliber team. Hopefully, we learned a painful but valuable lesson today that will help us moving forward.”
Gillis led her team with 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and one steal in 38 minutes. Fitzgerald followed with 12 points and three rebounds, while Serravillo added 11 points, three rebounds and one assist.