No. 22 Messiah Holds Off Second Half Mustang Challenge

No. 22 Messiah Holds Off Second Half Mustang Challenge

GRANTHAM, Pa. – Visiting Stevenson University whittled a 17-point halftime deficit down to five midway through the fourth quarter but 22nd-ranked Messiah College held off the Mustangs for an 80-67 MAC Commonwealth women's basketball victory Wednesday night at Hitchcock Arena.

Messiah (18-2, 10-1 MAC Commonwealth) was led by 18 points apiece by Maci Thornton and Alecia Rohrer.  Rohrer also finished with 10 rebounds and four assists.

Stevenson (12-9, 6-6 MAC Commonwealth) placed four players in double figures, as junior Jonyae Curry led the Mustangs with 12 points and four steals.  Sophomore Hannah Crist knocked down three of her five three-point attempts and tallied 11 points and five rebounds, while freshmen Olivia Coleman and Denia Campbell each recorded 11 points.  Coleman grabbed eight rebounds and posted four blocked shots, while Campbell was also 3-5 behind the arc.

The Mustangs, who had trailed 39-22 at halftime, knocked the lead down to five, 63-58, with 7:41 remaining on a basket by sophomore Mariama Keita.  Messiah scored the next four points to push the lead back to nine, but back-to-back baskets by Curry made it a 67-62 contest with 5:28 on the clock.

Messiah used a 10-2 spurt to build a 13-point lead following a basket by Kaitlyn Hoff with just under two minutes remaining.  A three by Crist with 47 seconds remaining cut Messiah's lead to 10, but the Mustangs got no closer.

Stevenson scored the first five points of the third quarter to pull within 12, 39-27.  Messiah countered with the game's next four points and the lead fluctuated between 12 and 16 until a 10-0 Mustang run capped by a Campbell three pulled the visitors within six, 55-49, with 1:33 left in the third.  Messiah took a 59-51 lead into the final frame.

Stevenson trailed 8-6 midway through the first half but used a 7-2 spurt capped by a layup by senior Imani Sanders to go up 13-10 with 3:28 left in the first quarter.  Messiah scored the final five points of the first quarter to take a 15-13 lead at the first break, then eight straight points to start the second quarter extended the Falcon lead to 23-13 with 7:17 left before halftime.

A jumper by freshman Brandi Hall at the 6:52 mark ended Stevenson's scoring drought before the Falcons extended their lead to 28-15 with 5:49 left in the half.  A three by Campbell pulled the Mustangs within 10, 30-20, with just under four minutes remaining, but from there the hosts closed the half on a 9-2 run to go into the locker room with a 17-point cushion, 39-22.

Both teams shot the ball well, with Messiah shooting 50% and Stevenson 49.1%, while the Mustangs knocked down seven of their 13 three-point attempts.  The guests, who entered the game leading the conference in forced turnovers, committed 23 giveaways compared to 13 for Messiah, leading to a 25-12 Falcon edge in points off turnovers.  Stevenson outrebounded the Falcons 34-32.

Stevenson is back on the road Saturday, traveling to Widener for a 1:00 MAC Commonwealth contest.