Worcester, Mass. – Behind a potent offensive backcourt attack, Clark University posted an impressive 76-62 win over Worcester-area rival Fitchburg State in non-league women's basketball action on Tuesday evening.
The win for the Cougars is their fourth straight season-opening victory and marks their second straight win over the Falcons, who played their first game under new head coach Dan Nagle.
Score: Clark University 76, Fitchburg State 62
Records: Clark 1-0, Fitchburg State 0-1
Location: Kneller Athletic Center, Worcester, Mass.
How It Happened:
After the Falcons scored the game's first five points, the Clark offense got on track and scored 27 of the game's next 30 points to take control midway through the second quarter.
The run started as Aretha Sullivan (Worcester, Mass.) and Sam O'Gara (Worcester, Mass.) each had two layups to kickstart the offense and then Cori Ouellette (Madison, Conn.) came in off the bench and drained three first quarter triples. Another easy finish from O'Gara and free throws from both Sullivan and Sami Dokus (Littleton, Mass.) had the Scarlet and White up 21-7 after the first.
Clark then scored six of the first seven points of the second stanza, capped by an O'Gara steal and push ahead to Arielle Pierre (Elmont, N.Y.), who finished with ease to give the Cougars a 27-8 advantage less than three minutes into the frame.
Fitchburg State got as close as 15 later in the period after an Allysa Rivera three-pointer, but the Clark lead went back to 19 on a few more occasions before settling for a 42-24 halftime edge.
The Falcons came out aggressive to start the second half and trimmed the lead to 13 after Kyra Rose scored inside and Emma Thomson connected on a three-pointer.
Clark answered back and pushed their advantage back to 19 following a Gwyneth Ivory (Ashland, Mass.) hoop off of a Haley Wilder (Rindge, N.H.) feed and another three-point bomb from Sullivan. That lead ballooned to 21 after Sullivan made a pair from the charity stripe, making the score 53-32 with 4:41 left in the quarter.
The Cougars only made one more basket the rest of the period but they were making enough free throws to keep the Falcons at bay. When they did connect on the basket – a steal and fast break finish from O'Gara - their lead was back to 19 at 61-42 heading into the fourth quarter.
Clark saw that lead slowly dwindle down and when Katelynn Rizzuto scored inside with help from Rose, the Falcons were within nine at 64-55 with 4:33 remaining.
A few minutes later, however, the Falcons still hadn't gotten any closer and the Cougars closed out the matchup when O'Gara completed a traditional three-point play with 1:55 to go.
Numbers Never Lie:
After shooting 51 percent in the first half, Clark cooled down considerably in the final 20 minutes, connecting on just 33 percent of their attempts but still finished a respectable 44 percent from the field for the game.
The Falcons, meanwhile, struggled shooting all night, making just 33 percent for the game, including only going 4-for-25 from behind the arc (16 percent).
At times the contest was sloppy on both sides with each team committing 29 turnovers and combining for 48 fouls. Clark shot only 25-for-40 from the free throw line and three separate players had six or more turnovers.
Inside The Numbers:
O'Gara and Sullivan each finished with 25 points for the Cougars, combining to shoot 16-for-32 (50 percent) from the field. O'Gara added five assists and five steals to her stat line, while Sullivan added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Ouellette ended with nine points and five rebounds and Dokus pitched in with four points, three rebounds, four blocks and two steals.
For Fitchburg State, Rose racked up a team-best 22 points before fouling out and Rizzuto notched a double-double with 12 points, 15 rebounds and five steals.
"I am thrilled to open the season with a hard fought win," said Clark University head coach Pat Glispin. "Credit to Fitchburg for competing hard the entire game. We had a chance to overcome some adversity and hopefully that will serve us well moving forward."
Clark will take part in the Worcester City Tournament and will take on tournament host Worcester State on Friday at 6:00 p.m.