WOOSTER, Ohio – An intense third-period push fueled by a career performance from junior guard Aki Shurelds, who tied single-game program record with seven 3-pointers, brought The College of Wooster women's basketball team into a tightly contested close out, but Case Western Reserve University utilized lights-out shooting of its own to preserve its lead as the Spartans took down the Fighting Scots 97-72 on Saturday afternoon at Timken Gymnasium.
After going 1-for-2 from beyond the arc in each of the first two periods, Shurelds did not miss from three-point range in the third period, going 5-for-5 to lead a charge that brought Wooster (1-5, 0-1 North Coast Athletic Conference) back to within eight with 3:11 left in the third period after trailing by as many as 24 points earlier in the period.
|Junior guard Aki Shurelds tied Wooster's single-game record with seven 3-pointers en route to a career-high 23 points.|
In the first period, the Spartans (6-2) capitalized on an 11-5 run to close out the opening stanza with a 24-14 lead, as Hillary Hellmann went 3-for-3 from three-point range to open the scoring gates for the visitors.
Shurelds brought the Scots' deficit back down to eight at the 8:41 mark in the second period with a mid-range jumper off the assist from first-year Cat Fiorito, but a 19-7 Spartans' run spanning over 6:25 granted the Spartans a commanding lead as Case Western Reserve took a 49-29 lead going into the halftime break.
With a concerted effort to up the defensive pressure in the second half, the Scots came out of the gates sprinting in the third period with Shurelds connecting on her first of five third-quarter 3-pointers just 20 seconds into the half. Junior Katie Mandych put her hat into the mix with a long-range bomb of her own to cut the Spartans' lead to 17 at the 8:29 mark.
With 3:39 remaining and Case Western ahead, 64-51, sophomore Anna Gibbs did well to find Shurelds alone on the left side, as she drilled her fourth 3-pointer of the quarter. Just 28 seconds later on the ensuing Scots' possession, it was again Gibbs-to-Shurelds, as the latter knocked down her fifth 3-pointer of the quarter and program-best seventh of the game to cut the lead to eight as Case stood ahead 65-57 with 3:11 remaining. The Spartans eventually took a 74-62 lead going into the final 10 minutes after.
In the third period overall, the Scots forced five turnovers while out-rebounding Case 9-3, including 4-2 on the offensive boards.
The Spartans, however, came out of the huddle red-hot to start the fourth period, sinking their first four shots – all from 3-point range – to bring the lead back up to 22 with 7:34 left in the game. The defense held on throughout end the period as no major runs for Wooster materialized in the final 10 minutes.
Shurelds finished with a career-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting along with four boards on the day, while Gibbs marked the second Scot to finish in double-figures with 15 points, including a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line while dishing a team-high six assists. Fiorito put in the effort on both ends of the glass, pulling down a team-high nine rebounds, including five on the offensive end. First-year Akwia Tilton matched that mark with nine rebounds, with five also coming on the Scots' offensive half.
The Scots shot 35.7 percent (25-70) on the day while going 9-for-24 (37.5 percent) from three-point range and 13-for-16 (81.3) from the free throw line. Leading Case Western in scoring were Hellmann (25), Jess McCoy (22), and Kara Hageman (20).
Wooster returns to action on Wednesday, Dec. 7 at Hiram College (6-2, 1-2 NCAC) for a 6 p.m. tipoff.