Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
By Bob Heller
Garden City, N.Y. - Alex Thomas and Sarah Abbonizio combined for 42 points as the University of the Sciences women’s basketball team continued their post-season run and earned their first ever NCAA tournament win with a 73-66 victory over Bentley University in Friday’s first round of the
NCAA Division II East Regional at Adelphi University.
USciences, the #6 seed, never trailed in the contest as they handed Bentley, the #3 seed and a national semi-finalist last season, their earliest exit in the NCAA Regional Tournament since the 2009-10 season when they lost to Stonehill College, 74-56
The two teams entered the game with identical 26-5 records. The Devils improved on their school-record for wins, upping their record to 27-5 while the Falcons finish the season at 26-6.
The Devils will face #2 seed Queens College at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday at Adelphi’s Center for Recreation and Sports in Garden City, N.Y. in the first regional semi-final game. Queens defeated #7 Assumption 69-48 in today second game of the tournament.
Thomas recorded a game-high 23 points, connecting on 5-6 from three point range along with 4-5 from the free throw line, leading four USciences players in double figures. Abbonizio scored 11 of her 19 points in the fourth quarter and finished the game shooting 10-13 from the free throw line and 4-7 from the field.
Jordan vitelli and Colleen Walsh each scored 11 points with Walsh knocking down three three-point field goals and Vitelli two. Laura Trisch had ten rebounds to lead all players.
The Devils shot a blistering 54.4% from beyond the arc, making 12 of their 22 three point attempts. The team also shot 79.2% from the free throw line, just slightly above their league leading average. USciences finished the game shooting 41.2% overall (21-51)
Macchi Smith led Bentley with 21 points while Jen Gemma added 15. Lauren Green and Amy McConnell scored 13 and 11 points respectively.
Three three-point field goals by the Devil in the opening five minutes of play staked USciences to an 11-2 lead. The Falcons scored the next seven points to close within two at 11-9 before the Devils closed out the quarter on a 6-1 run to take a 17-10 lead.
Bentley scored the first seven points of the second quarter to tie the game at 17-17, one of two ties between the two teams in the quarter. Knotted at 21-21, Walsh sank two three point buckets to give the Devils a 27-23 lead late in the period. The two teams exchanged points in the final minute as the Devils held a 30-26 lead at the break.
The Devils used an 11-0 flourish midway through the third quarter to turn a two point advantage into a double digit lead at 46-33 with 3:34 left in the period and led by 12 50-38 as they limited the Falcons to just four field goals in the quarter and outscoring Bentley 20-12 in the period.
Thomas’ traditional three-point play at the 5:31 mark of the fourth quarter gave the Devils their largest lead of the game at 58-43. Bentley began to put full court pressure on the Devils and starting chipping away at the lead, closing within seven 63-56 with 2:27 left and then five at 65-60 with 1:08 left.
After forcing a quick turnover, Smith connected on two free throws to make it a one possession game at 65-62. This would be as close as the Falcons would come as USciences went 8-10 (Abbonizio (5-6) and Vitelli (3-4)) from the free throw line in the final minute to seal the seven point win.