DUDLEY, Mass. - The Curry College women's basketball team won their fourth straight game as they defeated Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) foe Nichols College by a score of 58-44. The victory improves the Colonels record to 10-7, going to three games above .500 for the first time this year. Curry's CCC record goes to 7-2, just half a game behind the conference leaders, Endicott (7-1). The loss drops Nichols' overall record to 3-15 and their league mark to 1-8, as they drop their twelfth straight.
Curry entered the day without freshman guard Amanda Leal (Tyngsboro, Mass.), who registered 11 rebounds in the first meeting between the Colonels and Bison on December 4. However, this would prove to be a non-factor in this contest. The Colonels won the tip to start the game, but would miss their first four shots which led to an early deficit. Nearly half way through the first quarter, junior Sam Bamford (Easton, Mass.) drained a three off an assist from Peyton Perine (Fairfax, Va.) to cut the Bison lead to one at 6-5, but the Colonels were unable to take the lead after the next possession saw Perine fail to convert a pair of free throws. Curry would not stay behind for long though, after a three from senior Molly Plunkett (Quincy, Mass.) tied the game at 11 and a layup from the senior captain Emily Irwin (Billerica, Mass.) gave the Colonels their first lead of the day. The Bison would tie the game with a layup of their own, but a pair of Irwin free throws sent the Colonels into the second quarter with a 15-13 lead.
Curry once again got the ball to begin the quarter, but an illegal screen call on Bamford sent the ball the other way, leading to a three from Nichols guard Tove Selberg (Lulea, Sweden) to retake the lead. The teams would trade baskets, with the hosts extending a four point lead, until Perine, who started the day 1-for-8 from the floor, found her groove and made three consecutive shots to give Curry the lead back at 25-23 with just under two minutes remaining in the half. However, in the midst of the freshman's hot streak, Curry's captain Irwin ran into a hard screen and suffered what appeared to be a minor facial injury and was forced to head to the bench, after already registering six steals on the defensive end. With the clock reading 1:24, Bamford was whistled for a questionable travel trying to secure a loose ball, but Curry's defense held strong, pressuring the shooter into a missed layup before posting a defensive rebound to regain possession. With the ball back in hand, Curry benefitted from a miscue from the officials, who initially put sophomore Maeve Foley (Wethersfield, Conn.) at the charity stripe, but in determining Nichols had committed just four fouls in the quarter instead of five, simply gave the Colonels possession. The guests would not miss a beat though, as a triple from Plunkett gave Curry their largest lead at five, before a free throw by Foley sent the Colonels to the intermission with a 29-23 advantage, despite shooting just 29% from the field, a sharp decline from the 41% shooting they posted in the first half of the first meeting with the Bison.
As the second half got underway, Irwin returned to the floor, but it was Plunkett taking charge of the defense and collecting a steal on the first Bison possession. The teams would stay quiet on offense, shooting just 2-for-11 over the first 4:40 of the third quarter, before a three by Irwin gave the Colonels a ten point lead as the senior collected her first points since the first quarter. Following a basket by Nichols guard Shannon St. Lawrence (Milton, N.H.), the Colonels ran off a lengthy possession, collecting three offensive rebounds, which ran off a full minute of play, despite recording no points in the effort. The Bison would cut the lead to six at 35-29 thanks to a layup by Melody Millett (Naples, Maine), but the Colonels remained squarely in control of the clock and the ball, using drawn out possessions to take a 43-34 lead into the final quarter.
Nichols started the frame with a comeback on their minds, but continued to get bitten by turnovers as a travel gave the ball to Curry, just one of 26 Nichols turnovers in the match up. Curry continued to chew clock and made these possessions count, such as getting Perine to the line after running the shot clock all the way down to two seconds. Another Plunkett triple with 6:51 remaining in regulation put Curry up 15 at 49-34 and with the lead, the visitors employed an aggressive defensive effort, something that teams have struggled to overcome when the Colonels have an advantage on the scoreboard late in the game. The guests collected 11 fourth quarter rebounds, three of them offensive, to go along with five steals to keep the momentum on their side. With 2:48 left on the clock, Irwin put in her twelfth and thirteenth points of the day on free throws, extending the Curry lead to 21. Despite the Bison turning on a full court press which led to an 8-1 Nichols run, the hosts could get no closer than 14, as the Colonels kept the clock ticking and squashed the comeback effort, ending the game with a 58-44 victory.
Perine led all scorers on the day with 17, to go along with team highs in rebounds (7) and blocks (2). Plunkett accompanied the freshman with seven boards and a pair of blocks, while joining her in double digit scoring, registering 12 points. Curry also got an impressive all-around effort out of Irwin who collected 13 points on the day to go along with a team-high four assists and nine steals, just one theft from a sixth consecutive double-double.
Nichols' scoring was led by Rebecca Cleary (Milford, N.H.) who posted 12 points, a notable improvement over her output in the first meeting, where the Colonels kept her off the board. Mekaela Fithian-Giantonio (Plainville, Conn.) put up high marks with four helpers while Millett and Fithian-Giantonio each collected eight boards.
Curry will play next on Saturday, January 26 at 1:00 p.m. at home against the conference-leading Endicott College, as they continue their CCC schedule, on what could shape up to be a historic afternoon for the program. Nichols will also continue league play as they draw Endicott earlier in the week, travelling to face the Gulls on Tuesday, January 22 at 5:30 p.m.