Boca Raton, FL - The Florida Atlantic University women's basketball team relied on a stingy defensive effort to defeat Sun Belt Conference West Division leader University of Denver 51-50 on Wednesday night at the FAU Arena in Boca Raton. The Owls remain in second place in the East Division with an 8-3 record and are 13-9 overall.
Florida Atlantic held the Pioneers to 35 percent shooting (19-of-54), including 4-of-18 shooting from behind the three-point line. The Owls did not allow Denver to score a field goal for a 10-minute stretch in the second half.
FAU has held nine of its' 11 league opponents under 58 points a game, and the team's last four victories have come by a total of six points.
"The players were relentless on the defensive side of the ball," said Chancellor Dugan, FAU's head women's basketball coach. "We got the key rebounds, made the key shot and got the stops when we needed them. We're a gritty and hard-working bunch that continues to find ways to win games."
After trailing 27-23 at the half, the visiting Pioneers started the second half on an 8-2 run to take a 31-29 lead after a free throw by Maiya Michel with 15:49 left. The Owls did not make their first field goal in the second half until 13:33 remaining when senior forward Vontrice Dennis connected on a turn-around jumper to even the score at 31-31.
Then, Florida Atlantic scored five of the next six points to build a four-point lead, 36-32, before Denver's Kaetlyn Murdoch hit a field goal with 6:49 left. The basket snapped a 10-minute stretch in which the Pioneers were held without a field goal.
The Owls built a six-point advantage on two occasions with four minutes remaining, and a jumper by senior guard DaLita Scott gave FAU a 47-41 lead with 3:02 left. Later, after FAU missed a free throw while leading 49-48 with 39 seconds left, Denver had two attempts to reclaim the lead in the closing seconds. Morgan Vin Riper-Rose missed on a three-point field goal before Emiko Smith failed to connect on a layup. Senior guard Teri Stamps grabbed the defensive rebound and was fouled with five seconds left. Stamps calmly drained both free throws to give the Owls a 51-48 advantage.
Denver (16-10, 8-4 Sun Belt) had to go the length of the court in 5.3 seconds during a final attempt to tie the game with a three-point field goal. Van Riper-Rose made a jumper at the buzzer, but video replay evidence showed that the shot was made from inside the three-point arc.
"We told our players to guard the three-point line," said Dugan. "They tried a dribble-handoff and we nearly stole the ball. We forced them into shooting a two-point shot."
FAU trailed early in the contest, falling behind 9-4 in the first six minutes of the game. However, the team rallied and took a 27-20 lead after a pair of free throws by senior forward Mariana Byczkowski in the final minute. Van Riper-Rose hit a three-point field goal before time expired in the first half to cut FAU's halftime edge to 27-23 at intermission.
Sophomore post player Chenise Miller paced two FAU double-figure scorers with 14 points. Senior forward April Goins chipped in 11 points and added a team-high nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Latavia Dempsey and Scott each scored eight points. Florida Atlantic held a 42-34 rebounding advantage in the game and matched a season-low 13 turnovers.
Denver's Van Riper-Rose led all scorers with 19 points. Murdoch, the co-Preseason Player of the Year, was held to nine points before fouling out of the game. Murdoch was averaging 17.4 points a game.
FAU returns to the court on Saturday, February 11, at 3 p.m. against the University of North Texas. The program will join the nationwide effort in the `Play 4Kay' Game. Proceeds will go to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. For more information about the event visit www.fausports.com.
Live audio and statistics of the game can be found at www.fausports.com. For tickets contact the FAU Ticket Office at 1-866-FAU-OWLS.