WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - The University of Saint Joseph basketball team was defeated, 77-54, by the Johnson & Wales Wildcats on Saturday afternoon in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference South Division showdown inside the O'Connell Center. The loss drops the Blue Jays overall record to 8-12 on the season and 2-9 in GNAC play. The Wildcats improve to 14-7 overall and 9-3 in the league with the victory.
Junior Kayla Guest (Newington, Conn.) led the way for the Blue Jays in the setback with a game-high 21 points, while classmate Rajeen Mayo (Middletown, Conn.) joined her in double-figures finishing with 15 points. Guest also secured 10 rebounds for USJ to post her fifth double-double of the 2016-17 season.
Johnson & Wales struck first with a made jump shot from junior center Ashley Thompson (Bellingham, Mass.) and would never look back as they led wire-to-wire in the victory over the Blue Jays. Both teams struggled to get things going early in a low scoring opening quarter, but five points from sophomore Ally Mishol (Longmeadow, Mass.) pushed JWU ahead, 13-7, after the opeing 10 minutes of action.
The Blue Jays and Wildcats both began to shoot it better in the second quarter. A lay-in by junior Sarah Duryea (Queens, N.Y.) with 5:59 left before halftime built the visitors lead to double figures, 20-10. USJ would trim the deficit to 24-18 after a layup from Mayo, but the Wildcats closed the half with a 9-4 run to take a 33-22 edge into the locker rooms.
The Wildcats carried the momentum over into the third quarter and opened the second half strong, holding USJ to just four points over the first half of the third period. The 13-4 run by JWU pushed their lead to 46-26 as they began to take control of the game. Duryea fueled the run with five points. JWU would go on and maintain the gap over the remainder of the quarter, taking a 55-34 lead into the final stanza.
The Blue Jays would get back within 16 (62-46) after a three-pointer from senior sharpshooter Carlee Putnam (Niantic, Conn.) with 5:38 left to play in regulation. However, that would be as close as USJ would get for the remainder of the game as the Wildcats would respond and outscored the Blue Jays 15-8 over the final time frame for the 77-54 final.
Guest and Mayo highlighted the USJ offense pouring in 21 and 15 points, respectively. Putnam added seven. Guest grabbed 10 boards to post her fifth double-double of the season and sophomore Diamond Wallen (Hartford, Conn.) had a great game on the glass snagging 10 caroms herself in 18 minute of action off the bench.
Johnson & Wales finished with three players in double figures led by Mishol who finished with a team-high 18 points off the bench. She connected on 7-of-12 attempts from the floor, including 1-of-1 from three and was 3-of-5 from the charity stripe. Thompson and Duryea joined her with 16 and 10 points, respectively. Junior point guard Raquel Pederzani (Coventry, R.I.) dished out a game-high seven assists for JWU and Mishol also led the Wildcats on the glass with nine rebounds.
USJ was held to just 34.5 percent (20-of-58) shooting from the floor, including 20.0 percent (1-of-5) from beyond the arc. JWU hit for 51.7 percent (30-of-58) from the field and 40.0 percent (2-of-5) from three.
JWU won the battle of the boards outrebounding the Blue Jays 37-34 and forced 18 USJ turnovers, converting them into 23 points.
The USJ basketball team will return to action next on Tuesday night when they hit the road against GNAC foe Mount Ida College. Tip-off is slated for 5 p.m.