Full-court pressure stifles Emerson in second half

by Angus Dickerson / Beacon Staff • February 9, 2012

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Olivia Connors drives into the paint against a Suffolk defender. Connors had 11 rebounds but was 5-16 from the field.
Olivia Connors drives into the paint against a Suffolk defender. Connors had 11 rebounds but was 5-16 from the field.

As five white jerseys jogged out of the huddle, the Emerson women’s basketball team was leading the Suffolk University Rams 25-22. With 15 seconds left in the first half, the Lions had enough time for one last possession.

Suffolk’s full court defense was there to attack the Emerson inbound pass. The pressure forced a wild heave across the court, and the half ended with Emerson’s Shannon Norton crashing into the scorers’ table in an unsuccessful effort to save the ball.

Suffolk’s defensive pressure gave Emerson problems all day. The streaky Lions lost their sixth straight game Tuesday evening — all against Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC)opponents — falling to the Rams 68-55.

 “They work hard, they’re good players, they just don’t know how to fix what they’re doing wrong. They can’t make adjustments in games very well,” head coach Gould said, referring to his team.

Suffolk won the jump ball and swished a three-pointer 14 seconds later. Emerson’s Olivia Connors answered with a layup on the other end. This opening exchange represented a rare moment of rhythm for both teams in an intense GNAC match-up.

Early on, both sides struggled to put points on the board. A combination of strong defense and sloppy play from both sides resulted in many miscues and turnovers. After 10 minutes of play, the score stood at 9-8 for Emerson.

“The teams know each other pretty well, play hard, so it was going to be a little ugly,” Gould said.

Although it held a three point halftime lead, Emerson was shooting just 32.3 percent.

In the second half, Suffolk adjusted, and Emerson did not. The Lions’ shooting improvement was negligible, while the Rams started knocking down shots, converting at a 47.8 percent clip after the break.

Emerson kept it close early on in the second half, but inconsistent offense and strong play from Suffolk’s Jacqueline Vienneau pushed the Ram’s lead to 10 with just under seven minutes to play. Connors hit a layup to cut the deficit to eight, prompting Gould to call a timeout.

Out of the timeout, the Lions forced a miss that was rebounded by their captain Olivia DiNucci. The junior political communication major made a bad first pass that was easily stolen, giving the Rams another opportunity. Vienneau knocked down a jumper a few seconds later.

Suffolk extended its lead down the stretch, seemingly getting to the line on every possession. Gould was called for a technical foul with just under a minute remaining for jawing at the refs from the bench. Suffolk made both free throws. Emerson kept fouling in the final minute. When the buzzer sounded, Suffolk’s free throws had pushed the margin of victory to 13. Vienneau tallied 25 points and seven assists, leading all players in both categories.

On the Emerson side, freshman Kristin Brice led the way with 19 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double. The forward has seen an increase in playing time and offensive chances after being inserted in the starting lineup while freshman forward Catherine Cloutier was sidelined with a concussion. 

 Brice said she remained upbeat despite the loss.

 “We need to win these last two games. We lost by a lot tonight, but it was really an 8-10 point game,” the forward said. “I think this has been the most intense we’ve played in awhile. We’re going to use this as fuel to win our last few games.”

 DiNucci, however, was frustrated with her team.

 “[Suffolk] just has more girls, more veterans, more scoring threats. I think we can beat them. They’re not a better team,” DiNucci said. “I’m hoping we can make it into the playoffs. We’re 10th in the [conference]. I expected us to be about fourth.”

 With the loss, Emerson falls to 4-7 in the GNAC and 7-16 overall with two games remaining. The Lions take the court next against Simmons Saturday afternoon, before finishing their season at home against Anna Maria the following Saturday.