ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The No. 7 University of Scranton women's basketball team (9-0) allowed just 12 points in the second half and used a dominant defensive effort to notch a 59-37 victory over the Wartburg College Knights (6-3) on Monday afternoon at the McArthur Center on the campus of Eckerd College.
Monday marks the fifth time in the last six games that the Lady Royals have allowed under 40 points. In fact, the 37 points scored by Wartburg is the fewest for the Knights since a 47-37 loss to Washington (Mo.) on Dec. 30, 2011.
It was also the first ever meeting between Scranton and Wartburg.
In the first quarter, both teams struggled to get on track offensively as the Knights led 7-2 with 4:10 left in the period. Junior Maddie Hartnett (Chatham, N.J./Chatham) scored four straight points to cut the lead to 7-6, but Wartburg responded to take a 13-8 lead after one quarter. The Lady Royals then began the second stanza on a 9-3 run as a pair of Hartnett free throws opened up a slight 17-16 edge with 4:57 to go before the two teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half and the Knights held a 25-24 lead at the half.
Wartburg continued to hold a slight lead at 33-29, but graduate student Sam Rajza (Plains, Pa./Holy Redeemer) buried a three and freshman Kaci Kranson (Scranton, Pa./Holy Cross) sank a pair of free throws for a 34-33 Scranton lead at the 4:10 mark of the third quarter. Head coach Ben O'Brien's team led 37-35 just a couple of minutes later when a Hartnett jumper ignited a 14-0 run that carried through more than half of the fourth quarter and a pair of free throws by Rajza made it 51-35 with 4:10 to play. Rajza and senior Hannah Angelini (Baldwin Place, N.Y./Somers) buried consecutive threes down the stretch to preserve the Lady Royals' ninth straight win and the defense held Wartburg to just two points in the quarter including 0-of-11 shooting from the floor.
Rajza led all scorers with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting and Hartnett added 13 points off the bench to go along with a career-high 10 rebounds for her first career double-double. Senior Bridget Monaghan (Florham Park, N.J./Morristown-Beard) contributed eight points, four rebounds and three steals in the victory.
Jaedon Murphy paced Wartburg with 13 points in the losing effort.
The Lady Royals shot 30.0% (21-of-70) from the floor, 26.7% (4-of-15) from beyond the arc and 92.9% (13-of-14) from the free throw line, while limiting the Knights to just a 14-of-54 (25.9%) performance from the floor and 1-of-21 (4.8%) from deep.
Wartburg was also just 8-of-15 (53.3%) from the charity stripe.
Scranton held a 52-40 edge on the glass behind Hartnett's 10 boards and Angelini's nine.
The 10 rebounds for Hartnett surpassed her previous career-high of six that had been set in a victory at Wilkes on Nov. 20.
O'Brien and the Lady Royals will battle Rhodes on Tuesday afternoon at Eckerd with action slated to get underway at 3 p.m.