SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – On the road Saturday afternoon, Allegheny College was able to fight off a furious second half comeback from Wittenberg University and come away with a 79-75 win to keep the Gators in sole possession of second place in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) standings.
The Gators (13-7, 7-3 NCAC) took a nine-point lead into halftime, and led by double-digits for most of the second half before seeing the Tigers (10-11, 5-5 NCAC) chip away slowly at the lead. Allegheny was able to jump out to such a lead thanks to another great shooting effort in the first half. Through the first 20 minutes, the Gators shot better than 60% from the floor including an impressive 6-of-8 display from long range.
The lead very well could have been even larger than nine points given the fact that the Gators did not take a single free-throw in the first half. On the other side of the court, the Tigers were able to take 16 shots from the charity stripe, knocking down 10 of them.
Coming out of the break, the Gators would go on a 10-4 run to jump out to a 15-point advantage, the largest lead of the second half. The comeback from the Tigers would begin in full force at the 13:10 mark. Down 58-43 at that point, the Tigers would go on a 22-9 run over the next eight minutes of game time to pull the game to within a bucket at 67-65. The Gators would answer back on their ensuing possession with a jumper by Heidi Goeller, who led all scorers with 22 points on 11-of-15 shooting for the afternoon.
With 1:38 remaining in the game, the Tigers knotted the game up at 73-all with a huge three-point bucket by Katherine Hueter. Until that game-tying trifecta, the Tigers were only 1-of-6 from deep for the game. Both the Gators and Tigers would trade layups on their next two possessions keeping the game tied at 75-all with a little over a minute in regulation.
Despite not taking a single free-throw shot in the first half, the Gators, who entered play this afternoon as the 15th best team in Division III in free-throw percentage, would have to be clutch in their attempts in the waning moments. With the game tied 75-all and under 45 seconds left, sophomore forward Ann Ryan was sent to the line for two shots. Ryan was clean on both, giving the Gators a two-point lead. On the other end of the court, the Tigers' Sarah Watson would toss up a potential go-ahead three-pointer, but did not connect on her attempt. The Tigers got new life pulling down the offensive rebound.
With the shot clock not a factor, the Tigers could hold on for the last shot. Only 13 seconds left in the game, Wittenberg's Laruen Cassel drove the lane for the tying basket, but was called for traveling. Rookie Saddie Gravatt would check into the game after the Tigers' turnover and immediately was fouled, sending her to the line with the game in the balance. The Franklin, Pa. native showed no signs of being overwhelmed in the situation as the smooth-shooting Gravatt knocked down both free-throws putting the game on ice for the Gators.
Once again, the Gators had four players reach double figures. Goeller led the way with her 22 points. Erica Restich continued her hot scoring hand pouring in 16 points in a relief role. It is the third consecutive game that she has scored at least 15 points. Gravatt's clutch pair of free-throws pushed her scoring afternoon to 12 points. Over the last three games, Gravatt and Restich have come into the game off the bench and have combined for 82 points. Sophomore forward Daryl Ford rounded out the double-digit scoring with 10 points.
The Gators will return to the David V. Wise Center for a pair of home games over the next week against Hiram College on February 9th and no. 14 Denison University on February 12th. The Hiram game is slated to be the Gators' "Pink Zone" game. The team will warm up in their official Pink Zone t-shirts and will have several fundraisers in place with all proceeds to be donated to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. Fans are encouraged to support the Gators' Pink Zone initiative by wearing pink to the game.