SMC vs. Hope

Belles Battle Back to Ground #1 Flying Dutch

Box Score (pdf)

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - After trailing visiting #1/#3 Hope by 14 points with 10:24 left in the second half, the Saint Mary's College basketball team put together one of the biggest comebacks in school history to defeat the Flying Dutch, 91-84.

Entering the contest with a 40-game regular season winning streak and the top ranking in the USA Today/ESPN national polls, Hope held an early edge against Saint Mary's and established as much as an eight point lead at various points in the first half.  Up 44-36 with under a minute to go in the first half, the Belles used their final two possessions of the half to cut the Hope lead to 44-40 at the break.

The Flying Dutch came out of the locker room in the second half by taking advantage of second-chance points to build a 12 point lead less than five minutes into the half.  The Belles were able to cut the lead to six with 12:40 remaining, but Hope responded with eight straight points to push the lead to 14 (68-54) with just over 10 minutes to play.

The resilient Belles, however, had other things in mind than giving the Flying Dutch their ninth win of the season.  Spurred in large part by timely shooting and out-rebounding Hope by a 11-6 margin, the Belles were able to erase the deficit and tie the game at 78-78 with just under three minutes remaining in the contest. 

Hope used a good field goal and a pair of free throws to regain the lead by four with 2:21 on the clock.  Yet again, the Belles responded in a big way as Nicole Beier knocked down a three pointer and Patsy Mahoney hit a pair of free throws to give Saint Mary's their first lead of the game with 1:43 to go in the second half.  The Belles continued to out-rebound the Flying Dutch and made six of eight free throws in the final minute of the game to take a 91-84 win.

The victory over #1/#3 Hope (#1 USA Today/ESPN; #3 d3hoops) is the first win for the Belles over a nationally ranked opponent since joining the ranks of NCAA Division III over a decade ago.  It is also the first time that the Belles basketball team has defeated the Flying Dutch in MIAA play (Hope holds a 34-6 all-time advantage dating back to when Saint Mary's was a member of the NAIA).  Prior to Saturday's contest, the Belles had not scored above 90 points since defeating College of Notre Dame (Md.) on November 24, 2007.

Nicole Beier had a break-out second half to lead the Saint Mary's offense.  The senior forward scored 17 of her career-high 25 points in the second half, including three three-pointers to cap off the Belles' comeback.  Patsy Mahoney was not far behind, as she scored 11 of her career-high 18 points in the second half as well.  Erin Newsom, who was honored prior to the game for breaking the school record for career rebounds, added 14 points of her own.  Maggie Ronan and Kelley Murphy each scored 11 points to round out the double-digit scoring efforts.

Off to the best start in conference play in program history, the Belles will next travel to Adrian College on Wednesday, January 7 for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.