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Mount St. Mary's women struggle past C. Conn., 80-72; Gardiner's pep talk, 25 rescue NEC's top seed


NEW YORK -- Walking toward the locker room at halftime, Mount St. Mary's looked nothing like the Northeast Conference women's tournament top seed. The dazed look was the result of losing most of a 15-point lead after Central Connecticut hit four three-pointers in the final 84 seconds.

"Everyone's head was down, so I pulled them all together and said ' This isn't over,' " said senior forward Megan Gardiner (25 points, 14 rebounds). "I said 'We still have 20 minutes to play so don't act like we already lost.' "

In the end, Mount St. Mary's escaped with an 80-72 win to advance to this afternoon's semifinal against Monmouth.

"I don't think any team wants to -- being a number one seed playing an eight seed -- go through a game like this," said first-year coach Vanessa Blair. "You don't want to open up with a game like this, but teams come to play. And our team has to come to play also."

The Mount might not be completely healthy. Starting point guard Vera Feldbusch sprained her left ankle with 13: 44 left and did not return. And reserve guard Jo-Val Nance injured her left shoulder late in the game.

What the Mount has to do today is do a better job offensively, after getting frustrated by Central Connecticut's varied defenses. From a 1-3-1 zone to constant doubling of Gardiner, the team's leading scorer, the Mount never got into an offensive flow after scoring the game's first seven points.

Defensively, the Mount did a poor job against the three-point shot in the first half (Central Connecticut was 6-for-9 on first-half three-pointers). When the Mount did a better job in the second half, the Blue Devils were able to drive to the basket and tied the game at 60 on a layup by Nikki Flocco (15 points) with 7: 39 left.

But Deanna Butters (15 points, 5 of 5 field goals) scored the next four points for a 64-60 Mount lead. And in the final minutes sophomore center Jackie Banks scored after grabbing two timely offensive rebounds.

"We came out in the second half, stayed focus and got it done," said Kia Williams, who scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Mount.

CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE -- Maciulewski 6-8 0-0 13, Warner 2-7 2-2 7, Zyhier 2-4 1-2 5, Guarneri 7-16 8-11 26, Flocco 6-13 0-0 15, Ostrosky 1-4 0-0 2, Knight 2-5 0-2 4. Totals 26-57 11-17 72.

MOUNT ST. MARY'S -- Williams 4-12 3-6 11, Gardiner 8-19 9-9 25, Banks 5-7 0-1 10, Menichini 2-7 0-0 5, Feldbusch 4-10 0-0 10, Butters 5-5 5-6 15, Carey 0-1 0-0 0, Nance 1-8 0-0 2, Walton 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 29-70 19-24 80.

Halftime--Mount St. Mary's 37-32. 3-point goals--CCS 9-19 (Maciulewski 1-1, Warner 1-3, Guarneri 4-11, Flocco 3-3, Ostrovsky 0-1). MSM 3-12 (Menichini 1-2, Feldbusch 2-5, Carey 0-1, Nance 0-3, Walton 0-1). Fouled out--Zyhier. Rebounds--CCS 38 (Guarneri, Knight 8), MSM 42 (Gardiner 14). Assists--CCS 18 (Flocco 8), MSM 15 (Feldbusch 5).

Pub Date: 2/28/99

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