Copyright 2016; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. File photo of Ebonee Dixon, taken at Goldey-Beacom by Frank Stallworth.
SPARKILL, N.Y. - - The Wilmington University women's basketball team couldn't climb out of an early hole in the 2016-17 season opener on Saturday, falling to host St. Thomas Aquinas, 90-73, in the STAC Tip-Off Classic in Aquinas Hall Gymnasium.
A slow start to the game caught the Wildcats (0-1) off guard and they needed to battle from behind the rest of the way. The Spartans (0-1) raced out to a 29-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. The teams were all square 61-61 in the final three quarters of play.
The glass was the difference in the first quarter, as the Spartans were able to outrebound the Wildcats, 13-5, including a 4-0 advantage on the offensive boards. The Spartans went 11-of-19 from the floor in the opening quarter including hitting all three of their three-pointes to jump out to the large lead. The Wildcats only had two less attempts at the basket in the quarter, but only shot 6-of-17 from the floor.
It was the final three minutes of the first quarter where the Spartans made their mark, after a Jocelyn Rodriguez layup brought the Wildcats to within 13-12 with 3:29 left in the quarter. The Spartans rattled off the remaining 16 points, including two three-pointers, a three-point play, and a steal and a fastbreak layup at the buzzer for the 29-19 lead.
Down by as many as 21 points in the quarter, a Macy Robinson layup brought the Wildcats to within 39-27 with 2:01 to play until the half. But the Spartans closed out the quarter on another 8-5 spurt to carry their 17-point lead into the halftime break.
The Wildcats shot 44.4 percent from the field in the third quarter and started off on a 6-0 run to get to within 47-36. A Rodriguez layup brought the Wildcats to within nine-points for the first time since the first quarter, 49-40, with 5:46 to play in the third. A Robinson three-pointer an Ebonee Dixon jumper had the Wildcats as close as close as 56-49, but the Spartans were once again able to stem the tide at the end of the frame. The Spartans closed the quarter on a mini 5-3 run to lead 63-52.
Still down 66-55 early in the fourth, the Wildcats ran out of gas on the comeback trail as the Spartans seven straight to start a 19-3 run to put the game out of range.
The Wildcats had four players in double digits, led by junior transfer LaShyra Williams' 18 points. Williams shot 5-of-13 including hitting two of three from three-point range. Dixon scored 11 of her 15 points in the first half, finishing 7-of-12 from the floor to go along with four steals. Robinson went 5-of-13 from the floor while hitting two three-pointers for 12 points, while Rodriguez collected 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with a team high four assists. Amani Graham led the team with seven rebounds off the bench.
The Wildcats remain in New York for another game on Sunday, closing out the STAC Tip-Off Classic with a contest against Molloy. The opening tip is slated for 1:00 p.m.