HALIFAX, NS—A battle at the top AUS standings shook out a four-point UPEI win on Saturday, Nov. 20, at the Homburg Centre. Saint Mary's had their four-game winning streak broken at the hands of the Panthers, who start their season 8-0 and rank second in the country.
The undefeated Panthers ran an effective offense all game, led by starting rookie guard Grace Lancaster (Fall River, N.S.) with 16 points and two rebounds. Fellow Panthers guard Devon Lawlor (Millcove, P.E.) grabbed 16 points and 1 board off their bench. Both Lancaster and Lawlor are legacy players, the daughters of former teammates for UPEI women's basketball.
The Panthers' defense was very consistent, led by AUS defensive player of the year in both 2017-18 and 2018-19, Carolina Del Santo (Barcelona, ES).
Veteran Huskies starting guard Arianna Macias (Tampa, F.L. / Arts) sank the first basket of the game, but the Panthers put together a steady run to end the first quarter 21-11, shooting 60 percent from the field and 100 percent from the free-throw line. Lancaster paced her side with 11 points and one rebound in the first frame, while Macias recorded seven points, one rebound and three steals.
The Huskies rallied their defense in the second quarter to hold the Panthers to five points, dropping the Panthers' field percentage to 12.5 down from 43 percent in the first quarter. Second-year forward Marlo Steenbakkers (Ottawa, O.N. / Science) and Aki Kobayashi (Halifax, N.S. / Commerce) were crucial in switching the tone for the Huskies in the second quarter and breaking up the Panthers clinical offense.
The Huskies grabbed twice as many boards in the second quarter as in the first. Katelyn Power (Bayside, N.S. / Commerce), Alaina McMillan (Brantford, O.N. / Arts) and Lucy Beaumont (Fredericton, N.B. / Commerce) combined for 13 out of a total 17 for their side after the first twenty minutes. Panthers' veteran centre Del Santo ended the first half with 13 boards, on pace to beat her previous career high rebounds-per-game at 24.
The Huskies grabbed eight points from their bench to cut UPEI's lead to two points and end the half 26-24.
Saint Mary's struggled back to force three lead changes in the third quarter, but the Panthers continued to punish SMU from the free-throw line, making 14 out of 15 in the second half. The Panthers extended their lead in the third with the help from their starters who scored 15 points to seven points from the Huskies' starting five, ending 48-36 heading into the final ten minutes.
The Panthers pulled out to their largest lead of the night at 64-50 with less than two minutes of game remaining, off the strength of Lawlor and Lancaster who combined for 11 points in the final quarter.
A final 67-53 loss for Saint Mary's saw their top-scorers relatively quiet all game, with McMillan, Beaumont and Clara Gascoigne (Dartmouth, N.S. / Commerce) held to a combined 27 total points all night. The Huskies field-goal percentage of 28 percent for the game allowed the Panthers to hold their lead throughout, and Del Santo's defense prevented them from taking advantage of second attempt baskets, although they remained aggressive. The Panthers finished with 94 percent shooting from the free-throw line.
Del Santo grabbed an impressive 28 rebounds and six assists, a new career high. She now ties third place in U SPORTS for overall rebounds in a regular-season game, as well as third for highest rebounds per game with 11.9. She leads the AUS season in overall rebounds with 119.
The Huskies were led by Gascoigne and McMillan, who each grabbed ten points and combined for 17 rebounds, five assists and seven steals. McMillan remains in the top ten AUS scorers per game and overall in the season. Courtney Donaldson (Kelowna, BC/Arts) also notched nine points, two rebounds and one assist for the Huskies bench.
Lawlor for UPEI matched the Huskies entire bench for points with 16 and added 1 rebound and two steals. AUS 2019-20 All-Rookie selection Lauren Rainford (Toronto, O.N. ) grabbed 10 points, three rebounds and two assists and currently sits third in overall scoring this season in the AUS.
Subway's AUS player of the game was UPEI's Grace Lancaster with her own career high of 16 points and two rebounds for the night.
Next up, the Panther's will play the St.FX X-Women (2-6 AUS) in a four-point game in Antigonish on Saturday, November 27th. Tip-off is set for 6 pm.
Recap: Lauren Phillips / SMU Athletics
Photos: SMU Athletics