Worcester, Mass. – Rising star Ogechi Ezemma (Hope Valley, R.I.) scored 17 of her game-high 21 points in the second half and Clark University surpassed their win total from a season ago with a hard-fought 53-44 win over Suffolk University in non-league women's basketball action on Tuesday evening.
The Cougars enter the semester break at 7-2 their best nine-game start since the 2011-12 squad did the same thing. That team went on to win 16 games, host a NEWMAC playoff game and play in the ECAC Tournament.
Score: Clark University 53, Suffolk University 44
Records: Clark University 7-2, Suffolk University 5-5
Location: Kneller Athletic Center, Worcester, Mass.
How It Happened:
The teams started the game off incredibly frigid from the field combining to miss the first 22 shots of the game and nearly four minutes into the game Suffolk was ahead just 1-0.
Despite missing their first 12 shots and not making a field goal until there was less than a minute remaining in the period, Clark only trailed 13-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Amazingly, the Cougars eventually took their first lead of the game at 16-15 less than three minutes into the second quarter when Kacey Legare (Chicopee, Mass.) connected on a three-pointer. Another scoring drought ensured – this one lasted nearly five minutes - following Legare's triple and when Cori Ouellette (Madison, Conn.) knocked in a three of her own, the Scarlet and White pushed their lead to 19-15 with 1:45 left in the half.
In front 19-18 to start the third period, Ezemma began to seize control of the contest for Clark, scoring ten of their 19 points in the frame and when Maya Kerstetter (Northampton, Mass.) picked up a loose ball after a Sam O'Gara (Worcester, Mass.) steal and knocked down a pull-up jumper as time expired, the Cougars were ahead 34-31.
The Rams got the lead down to two early in the fourth quarter after Georgia Bourikas (Hull, Mass.) drilled a three-pointer but the Scarlet and White embarked on a 9-1 run over the next six plus minutes that featured a pair of Ezemma baskets and a layup and three-pointer from Kerstetter.
Now trailing 45-35, Suffolk scored seven of the game's next nine points on an Alexandra Nagri (Salem, N.H.) three-pointer and a layups from Bourikas and Katelyn Rourke (Watertown, Mass.), cutting the Clark lead to 47-42.
The Cougars put the game away, however, as they went 6-for-8 from the free throw line in the final minute and got a key Ezemma block in the final 20 seconds to secure the win.
Inside The Numbers:
Neither team shot the ball well, but the Rams went long stretches without scoring and shot just 27 percent from the field for the contest. Clark meanwhile, did warm up in the second half (44 percent) after shooting just 20 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
The specialty stats were eerily similar with both teams scoring 24 points in the paint, each getting five second chance points and just two fast break points. Clark held a slight edge in bench points (16-15) but they turned the Rams' 18 turnovers into 15 points, compared to just five points for Suffolk off of 14 Clark miscues.
For The Nation:
Ezemma, the reigning NEWMAC Player of the Week and WACBA Player of the Week, finished with game-highs of 21 points, 15 rebounds and a career-best six blocks.
Kerstetter, meanwhile, came off the bench and produced a career-high nine points in 18 minutes, while O'Gara had 14 points, four rebounds and four steals.
Haley Wilder (Rindge, N.H.) didn't score for Clark but she helped out on the boards, hauling in a career-best ten.
For The Foes:
Nagri led the Rams with 11 points before fouling out, while Bourikas chipped in with ten points in just 22 minutes. Alexandra Clarke (Boothbay Harbor, Maine) was strong on the glass for Suffolk, pulling down a team-best 11 and local product Alexis Hackett (Charlton, Mass.) finished with five points, nine rebounds and three assists for the Rams.
Clark is off until Friday, December 30 when they visit UMass-Boston. The Rams, meanwhile, are off until after the New Year when they visit Pine Manor on Thursday, January 5.