WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - The University of Saint Joseph women's basketball team suffered its first loss of the season in a hard fought 89-81 setback to the Fitchburg State Falcons in the opening game of the 19th Annual USJ Tip-Off Tournament on Friday evening inside the O'Connell Center. With the loss USJ slips to 1-1 on the season, while Fitchburg State improves to 1-1 and Falcons' head coach Dan Nagle notches his first collegiate victory.
Saint Joseph was powered by senior Carlee Putnam (Niantic, CT) who finished with 28 points, four rebounds, four steals and three assists. She connected on 11-of-23 attempts from the floor, including three-of-eight from three. She was joined in double-figures by junior Rajeen Mayo (Middletown, CT) and Kayla Guest (Newington, CT) who had 17 and 15 points, respectively. Mayo also added eight assists, six rebounds and six steals.
Fitchburg State was led by freshman Kyra Rose with 31 points and 9 rebounds, while classmates Emma Thomson poured in 19 points, and Allysa Rivera had 10 points off the bench in 17 minutes of relief.
Fitchburg State jumped out to an early 13-2 lead to start off the contest, using full-court pressure defense and taking advantage of multiple early turnovers by the BlueJays. However, USJ battled back, and a three-point play from Mayo with 4:09 left in the second frame gave USJ their first lead of the game 31-30.
The Falcons rebounded closing out the half with a 16-9 run though, including eight points from Rose and a pair of triples from Rivera and senior Melissa Guglielmello to regain the lead, 46-40, heading into the locker room.
The Blue Jays exited the break strong and opened the second half outscoring the Falcons 7-1 to level the score, 47-47, in just over ninety seconds of play. However, the Falcons responded with back-to-back three pointers from Thomson and senior Briana Pelton to end any threat of a comeback attempt and they would never trail again for the remainder of the contest.
USJ would pull within seven, 74-67, after a pair of free throws from Putnam with six minutes left in regulation, but Fitchburg responded with 9-2 run capped by a Riviera layup for their largest lead of the game, 83-69, en route to the 89-81 final.
Overall, Fitchburg State shot 43.1% (31-72) from the floor, while the Blue Jays went 30-63 (47.6%) from the hardwood. The Falcons held an 45-35 edge in rebounds and a 31-22 differential in points off of turnovers, while USJ controlled the interior with a 46-38 advantage in points in the paint.
The loss puts USJ in the consolation game of the tournament to be played tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. against the loser of the Wellesley-Mitchell game later this evening. Fitchburg State moves onto the championship game against the winner at 3 p.m.