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SMC Basketball: Belles open with big victory

Chris Michalski | Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Saint Mary’s legitimized its spot at third in the pre-season MIAA poll with a convincing 72-33 win over non-conference foe Anderson University Tuesday.

The margin of victory was the largest for the Belles since 2007 and the total points allowed was the least since Dec. 3, 2003, when they gave up 26 against Andrews University. The Belles controlled this game on both offense and defense and led the Ravens in all statistical categories. In particular, the Belles shot an impressive 21-53 from the field including 4-for-9 from behind the arc. Overall, fourth-year Belles coach Jenn Henley said she was pleased with the Belles’ performance.

“I thought we played well for our first game,” Henley said. “We really did a nice job of working to get open looks tonight. We were able to get out and score off our defense.”

The Belles’ defense was a force to be reckoned with as well with 26 steals, almost three times as many as their opponents managed. This total is also well above last season’s average of 11.6 steals per game.

“I think we had a very solid defensive effort tonight which resulted in the 26 steals,” Henley said. “We need to do a better job of converting those steals into points.”

With a total of 26 points coming from the free throw line, the Belles dominated the free throw battle as well.  Their 30 attempts more than tripled the Ravens’, who went 5-9 on the game. The one category where the Ravens ended on top was in offensive rebounds, where they pulled down 15 boards, resulting in eight second-chance points. These second-chance points concerned Henley.

“We need to work on boxing out better and not giving up the offensive boards,” she said.

The Belles lost four seniors last year, but the returning players filled in nicely. With the two top scorers from last year, Nicole Beier and Erin Newsom, gone, the Belles will need to find new players for production on offense.

Sophomore Patsy Mahoney, who had significant playing time last year, stepped up in the season opener with 18 points and five rebounds. Katie Sullivan followed that effort with 12 points of her own over a total of 23 minutes played, which is an increase from last year.

The Belles showed their depth as well against the Ravens, posting 27 bench points. Sophomore forward Jessica Centa led the way off the bench with 12 points.

The Belles will play next at the Bluffton University Tournament this weekend. Their first game is Friday against Wheaton at 5 p.m.