COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Ursinus College women's basketball team put its customary lockdown defense back on display in Saturday's game against Washington College, but it was an unexpected source of offensive firepower that elevated the Bears to another big Centennial Conference victory.
Freshman forward Toni Suler scored a career-high 16 points, more than tripling her season average and making all but one of her eight field-goal attempts to power Ursinus (12-10, 10-7) to a 48-36 victory, its fourth consecutive win. The defensive dynamo added nine rebounds, seven blocks, and three steals to her stat line, impacting the contest in a major way on both ends of the floor. With the result, the Bears retained their hold on fifth place in the CC standings, a half-game clear of McDaniel and a game ahead of Johns Hopkins.
The other half of Ursinus' freshmen frontcourt, Lydia Konstanzer, also just missed a double-double with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds and dished out a career-high five assists. The stingy Bears held Washington College to just 25.9 percent from the floor (14 for 54), the third consecutive game in which their opponent has shot less than 26 percent. The Shorewomen (8-15, 3-11) were 1 for 13 from 3-point range and committed 15 turnovers.
Sophomore Kaci McNeave made both of her 3-point attempts and finished with eight points for the Bears, who pulled away from pesky Washington College with an extended run bridging the end of the third quarter.
The Bears jumped out to a double-digit lead inside the game's first eight minutes, largely due to an unexpected offensive outburst by the defensive-minded Suler. The rookie forward had three baskets inside during a 14-2 run after the Shorewomen scored the first points of the afternoon, and Lannon's lay-up off a nice feed by sophomore Brielle Clarke made it 14-4 at the 2:26 mark of the first quarter. Sophomore Kaci McNeave kicked off the push with consecutive field goals, giving Ursinus the lead for the rest of the half with a 3-pointer and then slipping underneath to finish off a pass from senior Libby Lannon.
Suler had back-to-back buckets in the second quarter, one a driving lay-up set up by a pump fake and the other on a perfect find by freshman Marisa DiLeo, and led all scorers with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting at the break. Washington College managed to stay close, however, and scored the last four points of the frame to go into halftime trailing just 24-18.
Washington College came out of the locker room to score the first seven points of the third quarter, pulling ahead for the first time since it was 2-0 on two free throws by Cassidy Quattro that made it 25-24. Locked in a 28-28 deadlock after Emily Thiemann's lay-up at the 2:58 mark, the Bears seized control with a 13-0 burst over the next 6:21 of game time.
McNeave and DiLeo splashed 3-pointers from the same spot on the right wing on consecutive possessions to ignite the winning move. The Bears, who had only made one 3-pointer up to that point, started the fourth quarter with a short turnaround jumper by Konstanzer, a sweeping lay-up by Suler, and a pair of free throws by Clarke to open a 41-28 bulge at the 7:28 mark.
Caitlyn Clark's free throw at 6:37 stopped the Washington College drought, but DiLeo came back with her second trey on the other end, and the rout was back on. The Shorewomen briefly cut the margin to 44-36 with just over a minute remaining but could get no closer.
Quattro led Washington College with eight points. Clark chipped in six, and leading scorer Ali Grundy was limited to just five on 2-for-10 shooting.
With seven more swats on her CC-leading ledger, Suler now needs four more to eclipse the single-season program record of 83, which has stood since 1997.
Ursinus resumes the playoff chase at Swarthmore on Tuesday, February 7.