Seattle University found itself struggling against an unexpected opponent Saturday.
While SU won its Thanksgiving Tournament with a 52-49 women’s basketball victory over Cornell at Connolly Center, the Redhawks had a tremendous amount of turnovers (33).
Bobbled balls off each other and miscommunication in the second half had SU coach Joan Bonvicini steaming as her team’s double-digit lead was twice whittled down to a one-possession difference.
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“I really tried to stay as calm as I could because I think they (the Redhawks) were putting pressure on themselves,” Bonvicini said. “I’m happy our younger kids are starting to step up.”
Cornell senior Shelby Lyman, out of Archbishop Murphy High in Snohomish, made a layin to cut the Big Red’s deficit to 51-49 with 1:38 left in the game.
Seattle U freshman guard Alexis Montgomery made the front end of a one-and-one to give the Redhawks a three-point lead. Cornell then missed two three-point attempts as the Big Red tried to tie it.
“I just knew I had to hit that shot for my team,” Montgomery said of her mindset before the critical free throws.
Down 31-13 at halftime, Cornell opened the second half outscoring Seattle U 10-6 and continued to cut into the deficit. The Big Red scored 19 points off 17 second-half turnovers by SU.
A layup by Cornell freshman Nia Marshall and a free throw by sophomore Allison Bockrath closed the Big Red’s deficit to 44-42 with 5:07 left. SU senior Sylvia Shephard made a three-pointer off an offensive rebound by teammate Ashley Ward to stop the 15-4 Cornell run.
Lyman found Bockrath open for a three-pointer and later scored on a layin to again pull Cornell to one possession of the lead.
But an offensive rebound by SU senior Kacie Sowell set up Montgomery’s game-saving free throw.
“We kept our composure,” Shephard said of the tense final minutes. “As long as we won, that’s all that mattered.”
Bonvicini added that it also matters that her players learn a lesson from the game. The Redhawks played good defense to force the Big Red (4-3) into uncomfortable shots.
The Big Red shot 16.7 percent in the opening half and 26.3 percent overall, but was given too many chances throughout the game, taking 27 shots in the second half compared to 12 by SU.
Marshall led Cornell with 15 points and nine rebounds.
SU won its own tournament for the fifth consecutive season. The Redhawks (3-4) play host to Oregon (3-2) at KeyArena on Wednesday.
“This was not our prettiest game,” Bonvicini said.
In the consolation game, Drake (3-4) was a 90-74 winner over Coastal Carolina (4-3).
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.