Photo Credit: Mike Franco

Fairleigh Dickinson Women’s Basketball Extends Winning Streak to 4

The Fairleigh Dickinson University Women's Basketball team(11-4, 3-0) held off a late charge by Central Connecticut State University to pull off a 59-53 win in a Northeast Conference match-up at the Rothman Center in Hackensack, New Jersey. FDU extended their winning streak to four games.

Sophomore guard Ella Fajardo poured in a game-high 15 points, senior Sierra DeAngelo tallied 14 points, and senior Celia Carbonell added 12 points.

FDU led by double digits with less than five minutes left in the second quarter at 27-17, but Central Connecticut State responded with a run to trim the Knights' lead to 29-23 at halftime.

The Knights could not contain Blue Devils center/forward Lara Rohkohl, who dropped 13 points of her team-high 20 points in the first half. Central Connecticut State held an edge in points in the paint 18-14.

On the flip side, FDU's stifling defense caused the Blue Devils' offense to commit 13 turnovers, leading to a 14-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

"The difference for all year is we're pressuring the ball a little bit better than in the past," Fairleigh Dickinson University Women's Basketball Head Coach Angelika Szumillo explained. "We're getting in the passing lanes and trying to create some extra offensive opportunities off our defense and affected Central Connecticut State."

In the third quarter, Central Connecticut State gained momentum from the end of the first half as they took their first lead since the two-minute mark of the first quarter at 38-35 on a triple from Meghan Kenefick. Belle Lanpher provided additional offensive support registering six of her 16 points in the quarter.

"We came out of the locker room, and our focus wasn't as sharp as it should have been," Szumillo described. "We missed some shots, and they made shots, and Bella Lanpher is one of those gifted players who can drive, and we gave her some more accessible looks than we wanted to."

Fairleigh Dickinson ignited a rebuttal, closing the quarter with a 7-0 spurt. Senior guard Celia Carbonell canned a trey to tie the game up at 38-38, followed by Sierra DeAngelo driving baseline for a nifty reverse lay-up and graduate guard Madeline Selvaggi capping the run with a steal and transition pull-up jumper.

"Central Connecticut made that run and we didn't fold,"  Szumillo noted. "Basketball is a game of runs and when we didn't score, we had to make sure that our defense was on point so we necessarily don't allow the other team go on those runs and let them score. If we get the stops and score and that's how you build the lead and something we talk about in practice and film sessions."

"It gave us some momentum and settled us down a little bit on offense," Szumillo said. "Celia had a great game, she's our best shooter percentage wise and shot the ball with a lot of confidence and needed every single one of her threes."

"Maddie(Selvaggi) is one of those players, and you look at her stats for the season, she probably averages two points per game, but she's of our top rebounders and assist leaders and doesn't turn the ball over," Szumillo said. "She often doesn't get mentioned because she scores a little, but the value she brings to our program day in and out of practice and in the games is valuable and sets the tone, and we're not the same team without her. She understands her role and excels and takes great pride in and carries over to her younger teammates, who follow in her footsteps, which becomes contagious.

Once the fourth quarter commenced, the Knights continued to sizzle from behind the arc as Celia Carbonell unleashed her fourth pearl of the game. Sophomore guard Ella Fajardo followed up Carbobell with a triple to boost the margin to 48-40 with eight and a half minutes remaining.

Sierra DeAngelo provided some additional breathing room burying back-to-back trifectas that expanded the Fairleigh Dickinson margin to 54-44 at the five-minute juncture.

"Sierra is just one of those players that is very confident," Szumillo stated. She could miss four threes in a row, but when she's open is not going to hesitate, and an open shot is a good shot, and she shoots the ball with a lot of confidence and is not nervous about taking those shots."

The Knights appeared in firm control leading 56-46 with two and half minutes to go, but the Blue Devils refused to throw in the white towel as they chipped away at the deficit to make it a four-point game at 57-53 with 16 seconds left.

However, Ella Fajardo sealed the 59-53 victory by draining two free throws as Fairleigh Dickinson extended their winning streak to four games.

"Ella(Fajardo) is a special player, in the absence of Dahomee Forgues who was not available for the game Ella was able to really score the ball and showcase that and is very skilled," Szumillo said.

"From having the opportunity to watch them play this season, they're very well-coached and disciplined and have a lot of strong pieces and play very well together," head coach Angelika Szumillo remarked. "Our defensive focus will be critical, and it will be a defensive battle for us."

"We have only played three conference games this season and we're just taking it one day at time and really focusing on winning the battles to win the war. We're focusing on the little things and trying to get better the day before and what's happening in practice and during the game and just take the good and bad and try to apply it for the next opportunity."

Fairleigh Dickinson returns to action on Monday, January 16th hosting Stonehill College(5-12) at the Rothman Center with tip-off set for 2 p.m.