Women’s Basketball Drops Overtime Thriller to No. 5 Smith

Alice Kelly - WPI Women's Basketball 2023

WORCESTER -- The WPI women's basketball team battled hard but fell to #5 Smith 67-64 in overtime in Wednesday night NEWMAC action at Harrington Auditorium. The Pioneers run their season mark to 15-1 (2-0) NEWMAC, while the Engineers dip to 11-4 (1-1). 

Despite an 11-0 start to the game for Smith, WPI rallied all the way back, including scoring seven unanswered points late in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime. The Engineers' magic ran dry in the extra session, however, as Smith built an early lead and a game-tying WPI three fell just short at the buzzer. 

Seven different WPI players recorded six or more points in the game, led by 11 points each from Lisa Cristiano (Valhalla, NY) and Alex Scariati (Scotch Plains, NJ). Alice Kelly (Wethersfield, CT) notched 10 points with a pair of blocks, including one on Smith's last possession of regulation to send the game into OT. 

Victoria Mirecki (Washingtonville, NY) ended her night with eight points, while Adrianna Niles (Tewksbury, MA) narrowly missed a double-double with eight points and a team-high nine rebounds. Rounding out the WPI boxscore, McKenna Finken (Simsbury, CT) and Melanie Presseau (Manchester, NH) each tallied six points in the loss. 

For Smith, Jessie Ruffner (Rocklin, CA) led all players with 20 points, adding five rebounds. Morgan Morrison (Detroit, MI) had 13 points and eight rebounds, with Katelyn Pickunka (Westhampton, MA) scoring 12 points with nine rebounds. Jane Loo (Saratoga, CA) wrapped up the double-digit scorers for the Pioneers with 11, while Dashelle Gleissner (Los Angeles, CA) had six points and seven rebounds. 

Smith's defense was the story of the first quarter, holding the Engineers scoreless for over six minutes to start play. The Pioneers' offense built an 11-0 lead, backed by five Pickunka points, before a Niles jumper at 3:42 finally got WPI on the board. That jumper sparked an 8-0 WPI run, closing the gap to 11-8, before Smith had the final run to lead 15-10. 

WPI made back-to-back buckets to open the second quarter, cutting the advantage to just one at 15-14. Smith surged over the next four minutes, outscoring the Engineers 7-2 to increase the lead back to six points. WPI countered with a 9-4 surge to make it a one-point game with 1:25 left but five straight from Smith made it 31-25 Pioneers at the break. 

Smith held on to an eight-point lead most of the third quarter with a Morrison lay-up putting the Pioneers up 44-36 with 5:40 on the clock. Nine unanswered points rallied WPI, giving the hosts their first lead of the game, going up 45-44 with 2:08 left in the frame. From there, Smith again closed a quarter on a run, rattling off six straight points to lead 50-45 after three. 

The Engineers wasted no time in the fourth, tying the game at 50-50 with a Scariati three with 6:25 to play. Loo countered with a three for Smith to put the Pioneers back on top, sparking a 10-3 surge that gave the visitors a 60-53 lead with 3:01 left. WPI answered once more, scoring seven unanswered points, including a game-tying lay-up from Cristiano with 19 seconds in regulation. Smith had a chance to win it on its final possession, but Kelly blocked a shot at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime. 

In the extra session, Smith took an early 63-62 lead, but WPI cut it to one point on a Cristiano lay-up. The teams traded free throws over the next minute and a defensive stop gave WPI the ball with 10 seconds to play, down by three. The Engineers had one final attempt at a game-tying three, but the shot bounced off the rim, giving Smith the victory. 

WPI finished with a 45.8% to 37.1% shooting advantage, but Smith posted a 40-33 advantage on the glass. 

WPI has another NEWMAC match-up on Saturday, hosting Mount Holyoke at 1pm. Smith continues its NEWMAC and Worcester swing on Saturday, playing at Clark at 2pm.