MILTON, MA – Despite a game-high 16 points from senior guard Gabrielle Hurlbert (Thomaston, CT), the Western Connecticut State University women's basketball team fell to non-league opponent Wellesley College, 56-39, at the Curry College Tip-Off Tournament in the season opener for both squads on Friday night.
Wellesley (1-0 overall) will play in the championship game tomorrow at 2 p.m. against the winner of tonight's second game between host Curry and Saint Joseph's (Maine). WestConn (0-1 overall) will play in the tournament's consolation final at Noon.
"With a young squad, we knew we would have some kinks to work out, but there is no excuse for not rebounding," stated WestConn head coach Kimberley Rybczyk following the contest.
Cho was one of two Wellesley players to finish with 12 points, as first-year Jiyun Chae (Chantilly, Va.) added a dozen to go along with four rebounds, and two assists. Senior Emily Kopp (King Ferry, N.Y.) chipped in with eight points and four rebounds and classmate Caitlin Aguirre (El Paso, Texas) finished with four points and a game-high four assists. First year Taylor Hirn (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) had a game-high 12 rebounds in 26 minutes of action.
Wellesley shook off a slow start to take a one-point lead at the end of the first quarter. Trailing 5-2, Wellesley used a 7-0 run to move ahead 9-5. Back-to-back threes from the Colonials cut the Wellesley run and pushed WestConn back ahead, 11-9, but Chae connected on a triple in the final minute to give the Blue a 12-11 lead heading into the second.
The Blue extended the advantage to six points at halftime, outscoring WestConn, 16-11, in the second quarter. WestConn scored the first five points in the frame, but an 8-2 Wellesley run, capped by a pair of free throws from Aguirre at 3:35, pushed the Blue ahead 20-17. Wellesley went on to outscore the Colonials, 8-5, over the final three minutes to take 28-22 lead at halftime.
WestConn opened the third quarter with a 7-2 run that cut the Wellesley lead to 30-29 following a Jessica Davis (Hamden, Conn.) layup at 6:18. Aguirre and Davis exchanged buckets to make the score 32-31 before Cho scored on back-to-back Wellesley possessions to push the lead back to five, 36-31. WestConn's Susana Almeida (Danbury, Conn.) hit on one-of-two free throws at the end of the quarter as Wellesley took a 36-32 lead into the fourth.
Wellesley held-on to the lead for the remainder of the contest, outscoring WestConn 18-7 over the final ten minutes to earn the win. Hurlbert cut the Blue lead to 38-35 with a layup at 7:08, but Wellesley would only extend the advantage from that point. A 6-0 run gave Wellesley a nine-point lead, 44-35, with just under five minutes remaining. The Blue would extend the lead to 17 and close out a 56-39 victory.
The Blue finished the game shooting 31.8% from the field while limiting WestConn to just 19.4% shooting. Wellesley also had a 61-42 advantage on the glass.