(By Nikki Philpot)
PHILADELPHIA - Saint Joseph's A-10 All-Conference Second Team selection Michelle Baker led all scorers with 20 points on 10-of-16 shooting to lead #5 Saint Joseph's over #12 Fordham, 63-52, in the opening round of the 2012 Buick Atlantic 10 Women's Basketball Championship on Friday afternoon at Hagan Arena.
With the win, Saint Joseph's (20-9) advances to the quarterfinals to face off against fourth-seeded Richmond Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:30pm.
Baker led four Hawks in double digits as junior guard Ashley Prim added 13 points for Saint Joseph's and senior guardKatie Kuester and sophomore forward Ashley Robinson chipped in 10 points apiece. On the defensive end, senior forward Kelly Cavallo pulled down six rebounds for the Hawks. Kuester tallied a career high two blocks and junior guard Mireia Vila dished out a career high five assists in the win.
Down 2-0 in the first four minutes of play, Saint Joseph's went on a 13-2 run that saw Prim and Baker combine for seven and six points respectively as the Hawks took an early 13-4 lead at 11:15.
After Fordham's Charlotte Stoddart sank a pair of free throws to close the gap to 13-6, sophomore guard Kasie Parker answered with a three to widen the lead back to 10. The Rams then went on a 9-1 run as Emily Tapio and Becky Peters combined for seven of Fordham's nine points to close the gap to 17-15 with 6:21 remaining in the half.
At 5:33, in the middle of a 9-0 run that began and ended with buckets by Prim, Baker scored her seventh and eighth game points and her 1,093rd and 1,094th career points as she passed Audrey Codner '94 to move into 16th place on the Hawks all-time list for career points. She would end the game with 1,106 career points.
Leading 26-17 with 3:35 remaining, Kuester exploded for the Hawks' final eight points of the half to extend the Hawk advantage to 12 and give Saint Joseph's the 34-22 lead at halftime.
Coming out of the locker room the Hawks would not trail, as they would extend their lead to as much as 16 en route to the 63-52 victory.
Baker scored the first four points of the half but Fordham answered with back-to-back threes to close the gap to 38-28. The Hawks then jumped out to a 5-0 run as Baker dished the ball out to Kuester on a breakaway that resulted in a layup and Robinson converted a three-point play to give the Hawks a 15-point lead at 43-28 with 12:01 remaining.
Over the next four minutes of play, the Hawks' lead changed from 15 to 13 eight times as scoring remained consistent on each side of the ball, with Baker scoring six straight points for the Hawks.
Down 59-47 with 0:51 remaining in the game, Fordham's Abigail Corning drained a three that brought the Rams to within nine, but Prim and Robinson combined for 4-of-4 shooting from the foul line to ensure the 63-52 Hawks victory.
For the game, Saint Joseph's shot 49.1 percent (26-of-53) from the floor and 45.5 percent (5-of-11) from behind the arc. The Rams (12-18) held the edge in free throw percentage, shooting 66.7 percent (8-of-12) compared to 6-of-10 shooting (60.0 percent) from the Hawks, and rebounding, 43-35, but Saint Joseph's was defensively solid as the team kept Fordham from shooting over 29.2 percent (19-of-65) from the floor and 28.6 percent (6-of-21) from three-point range.
Game notes: Today's win marked the Hawks' 13th straight win over Rams...It also marked the 18th time SJU has reached 20 wins in a season.