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Pennewell’s big night lifts women’s basketball over CCSU
With star guard Erin Kerner sidelined, the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team knew that defeating Central Connecticut would entail a little less of forward Monique Lee and a little more of guard Mandy Pennewell.
After all, the inside/outside tandem of Kerner and Lee is arguably the sharpest in the Northeast Conference. But with Kerner out with an injury the Bobcats needed offensive production Saturday from the backcourt to balance Lee.
Pennewell rose to the occasion and helped lead the Bobcats to a 62-55 victory at Detrick Gymnasium. The sophomore sharpshooter poured in a career-high 34 points while shooting a sizzling 13-for-20 (65 percent) from the floor and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Pennewell’s 34 established a player-high for the season, exceeding the 30 that Kerner had Jan. 8 against Robert Morris.
“That was an outstanding performance [by Pennewell],” Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri said. “She set the tone offensively.”
The Bobcats (14-8, 8-5 NEC) have won three of their last four. They needed this victory in the worst way. After taking the NEC world by storm last season, a frustrating home loss against Long Island dropped them to the middle of the pack in the conference action this year. Self-doubt was becoming contagious and had snowballed up to the LIU loss.
Now the Bobcats are back on track. The win puts them in a logjam with Monmouth for fourth place.
“The win was one we had to get and we got it,” Fabbri said. “We were able to win in pretty good fashion tonight. The monkey’s off our back. We know how to win.”
Fabbri congratulated her players, but assured them that the road that follows isn’t going to be easy. The most critical stretch of the season awaits the Bobcats, as they’re slated for home-and-away meetings with Sacred Heart, along with road games at Mount St. Mary’s, Long Island and Robert Morris.
Pennewell caught fire at the end of the first half and it carried over to the second. She scored 22 in the second half, hitting timely shots. Her jumper with 7:22 remaining extended the Bobcat lead to 13. She pick-pocketed the Blue Devils’ Heidi Warzinski and soared in for a layup 17 seconds later to give the Bobcats a 51-36 lead.
“We were able to settle down and get to that lead, and hold it,” Fabbri said.
The Blue Devils reeled off a 13-6 run behind Gabriella Guegbelet (20 points) to get within nine, but a pair of Pennewell free throws and a layup by Lee (18 points) kept the lead intact.
Fabbri threw much of the accolades to junior forward Hannalee Pervan, who was outstanding defensively.
“Hanna really did it for us defensively,” Fabbri said. “She gave as a huge, huge lift.”
Pervan kept Guegbelet in check throughout the first half, holding the first team All-NEC forward to just two points on 1-of-4 shooting.
It wasn’t a pretty first half for either team. For Quinnipiac, it was a tale of two sides of the floor. The ‘Cats instigated turnovers but produced little offense, hitting just one of their first seven shots.
Things got intriguing, however, with just under four-and-a-half minutes remaining. Pennewell drained a 3-pointer off of a cross-court feed from freshman guard Megan Barnum to put QU ahead, 15-13. She nailed another trey 34 seconds later to give the ‘Cats a 3-point cushion. Wedged in between Pennewell’s 3-pointers was a Brittney Dixon jumper.
The Bobcats shot a robust 17-for-23 (73.9 percent) in the second half and hit 27-of-49 on the night.
Pennewell said before the game that the Bobcats were in a must-win situation and that morale of the team was really counting on the victory.
“It’s important for us to play together,” she said. “After a loss we are looking for this game to give us another boost.”