The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team battled to a 67-59 triumph over Southern Connecticut State University in a non-conference game at Aquinas Hall. The Spartans have now won three straight and nine-of-10 overall to improve to 12-2 overall, with SCSU dropping to 9-5.
Julia Winnik opened the scoring with four points as STAC jumped out to an 8-0 advantage and a pair of Zaria Thomas free throws in the final minute staked the hosts to a 17-10 gap after one quarter. Stifling defense held the Owls to just two points over the first six minutes of the second, and a pair of Winnik three-pointers highlighted a 12-4 run as the Spartans opened a 29-14 lead, though Kiana Steinauer scored the final three points of the half to trim the gap to 33-23 at intermission.
Southern Connecticut dialed up the intensity after the break, forcing turnovers and holding the Spartans scoreless for the first four minutes of the third quarter, while Imani Wheeler scored five straight in a 7-0 run, bringing the Owls to within 33-30. Amanda Pfohl and Allie Smith heated up as part of a 13-2 SCSU outburst, giving the visitors their first lead of the afternoon at 43-39. An Emily Preston jumper and four straight points from Chelsea Murphy put STAC back on top by a narrow 47-45 count as the session came to a close.
Smith's deep three put Southern back on top at 50-47, but STAC rallied to regain the lead before the teams stood deadlocked at 56-56 with five minutes to go. The defense again stood tall as St. Thomas Aquinas held its foes without a field goal the rest of the way, and a trey by Thomas made the score 62-56 with 2:36 remaining, while Melissa Sadler converted an artistic three-point play with exactly a minute left to seal the deal.
Winnik led the way for STAC with 16 points as Sadler and Thomas chipped in 11 each. Smith led all scorers with 19 for the Owls, while teammate Kiana Steinauer cleared the glass for a game-high 20 rebounds.
The Spartans return to action for a big week of East Coast Conference play, hosting New York Institute of Technology on Wednesday before traveling to face LIU Post on Saturday, January 12. Wednesday's double-header action starts with the women's game tipoff at 5:30, followed by the men's contest at approximately 7:30.