|Bridgette Mann||Alexix Roman|
|Denise Rizzo||Sarah Payonk|
ST. LOUIS – The University of Scranton women's basketball team knew what it was up against in the NCAA Tournament sectional semifinal against Tufts on Friday night at Washington University. The Lady Royals faced the Jumbos in the Elite Eight last season, suffering a tough loss.
It turns out the difference on Friday night may have been something the Lady Royals could not have anticipated – hot 3-point shooting by Tufts.
Tufts hit a season-high 11 3-pointers on the night, taking an early lead and then using the long ball to hold Scranton at bay in the second half en route to handing the Lady Royals a 65-48 loss. Scranton ends its season at 26-4 after making its third trip to the Sweet 16 in the past four seasons.
The Lady Royals were led by sophomore guard Bridgette Mann (Canadensis, Pa./Wallenpaupack), who had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists. Senior forward Alexix Roman (Hawley, Pa./Wallenpaupack) added 12 points and seven rebounds, and senior Denise Rizzo (Paramus, N.J./Holy Angels) added nine points off the bench.
Tufts (28-2) scored the first six points on a pair of 3-pointers and simply did not look back. They hit four more 3-pointers in the first half en route to taking a 39-24 lead at the break. The Jumbos then hit five more 3-pointers in the second half, including two in the final moments of the third quarter to stall any momentum the Lady Royals may have built. The second came with seven seconds left in the quarter and only a half-court triple from Mann at the horn kept Scranton within 52-39.
The Jumbos put the game away by holding Scranton to just nine fourth-quarter points. When the Lady Royals tried to rally late, forcing four straight turnovers, Tufts used its trademark defense to force them to come up empty on three of the four ensuing possessions.
The loss on Friday night brings an end to a stellar four-year run for seniors Roman, Rizzo and forward Sarah Payonk (Schwenksville, Pa./Spring-Ford), who had six points, eight rebounds and three assists. The trio finishes with a four-year record of 106-13 with four NCAA Tournament berths, including two trips to the Sweet 16 and last year's run to the Elite Eight.
Scranton finished the night shooting 40 percent (16-for-40) from the field, including 3-for-11 (27.3 percent) from 3-point range. The Lady Royals made 13 of 20 free throws (65 percent) and were outrebounded 32-27. They also committed 17 turnovers, only four of which came in the second half.
Freshman guard Lily Warhaftig (Harlem, N.Y./Poly Prep) had another strong game off the bench for Scranton, finishing with six points, three steals and two rebounds in 22 minutes.
Tufts shot 45.5 percent (25-for-55) from the field, including 11-for-25 (40 percent) from 3-point range. The Jumbos entered the game at just 29.3 percent from 3-point range for the season.
The Lady Royals were making their 30th NCAA Tournament appearance, the most in NCAA Division III women's basketball. It was also the team's 24th appearance in the Sweet 16.