by Joel Nelson
BUFFALO, N.Y. – In its eighth road game of the season, the Penn State Altoona women's basketball team defeated Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent D'Youville College 90-54 on Sunday afternoon at the College Center Gym.
Penn State Altoona (8-9, 4-8 AMCC) played a quality, well-rounded game with solid defense and explosive offense.
"Defense and low turnovers played a key role in our win today. We were able to take control early and maintain throughout. Each of the ladies contributed in multiple ways," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Shoup. "Our defense is what contributed to a strong offensive game. We were able to get out and finish in transition."
One day after dropping 21 points on Medaille College, Penn State Altoona's Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) scored 21 in the first half alone against the Lady Spartans, shooting 9-of-15 from the field and hitting a couple three-pointers. She had 15 points in the second quarter, and she finished the day with a game-high 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Christine also led the team in steals with four.
The Lady Lions got double-double performances from starters Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) and Shannon Zimmerman (Pine Grove, PA/Pine Grove). Cannistraci recorded 14 points and 12 rebounds while Zimmerman got 12 points and 10 boards. Cannistraci also played solid defense, blocking five shots and grabbing two steals.
Kaley Strittmatter (Williamsburg, PA/Penn Cambria) finished with 16 points and seven rebounds while sinking all four of her free throw attempts. Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) finished with three blocks and a team-high nine assists. With six rebounds, Burk kept alive a 12-game streak of five or more rebounds, dating back to the team's December 6 victory over Franciscan University.
The Lady Lions held D'Youville (5-14, 4-8 AMCC) to 28.6 percent shooting from the field and 13 percent from three-point range. Penn State Altoona committed just 11 turnovers while forcing 19 from D'Youville. Penn State Altoona turned its takeaways into 35 points, as the Lady Spartans could only assemble eight points off turnovers.
No D'Youville player recorded more than nine points, but Darian Evans collected ten rebounds and Monica June dished out a team-high six assists.
Ball movement was a highlight for the Lady Lions, as the team set a single-game program record with 28 team assists today. In addition to Burk's nine, Ijonana Laster (Niagara Falls, NY/Niagara Falls) distributed five assists off the bench, while Christine and Cannistraci combined for another seven assists.
"Lex and Shan had double-doubles, and Paige and Ijonana distributed the ball well with nine and five assists, respectively," said Shoup. "Brianna Polites had a strong game with eight points, going 4-for-4 from the free throw line, and eight boards."
D'Youville got off to a 9-5 start in the first quarter before the Lady Lions sparked a solid 10-0 run with points from Zimmerman, Christine, and Strittmatter to go up 15-9 with 3:19 remaining in the first period. The Lady Lions went into the second quarter with a 21-16 lead.
In the second, Jordan Smith of the Lady Spartans hit a jumper with 7:31 left to cut Penn State Altoona's lead to 30-21. Christine answered with a three-pointer at 7:19 to extend the Lady Lions' lead to 33-21, starting a big 15-0 run over the next 3:50. The Lady Lions went on to outscore D'Youville 29-10 in the second quarter and come away with a commanding 50-26 lead by halftime.
D'Youville hung with Penn State Altoona in the third quarter, when the Lady Lions posted a slim 18-17 scoring advantage. There was still work to do though for the Lady Spartans, who trailed 68-43 at the end of the third.
In the fourth quarter, Shoup would not let her team take its foot off the gas pedal, as the Lady Lions outscored D'Youville 22-11 to take a 36-point victory.
The Lady Lions hope to build more momentum on Wednesday, January 31, when they travel to play AMCC foe Franciscan at 8:00 p.m. In the teams' previous matchup at home this past December 6, Penn State Altoona defeated 83-37.