LANCASTER, Pa. – Impressive free-throw shooting made all the difference as the Ursinus College women's basketball team staved off a late rally by Franklin & Marshall for a key 61-53 Centennial Conference victory on Wednesday night.
In a battle of playoff contenders, the Bears (10-5, 7-3) managed to hold off the surging Diplomats and post their fourth straight CC road win with incredible accuracy at the charity stripe from sophomore standouts Aliyah Stephens and Maya Kornfeld. Stephens made 13 of her 14 attempts, while Kornfeld was 8 of 10 – all in the fourth quarter – to help Ursinus keep F&M at arm's length after nearly squandering a 13-point second-half advantage.
Stephens finished with a game-high 19 points – on just five field-goal attempts – as Ursinus took over sole possession of third place in the league standings following Haverford's loss at Johns Hopkins. Kornfeld logged 16 points and juniors Lydia Konstanzer (14 points, 9 rebounds) and Toni Suler (8 points, 8 rebounds) flirted with double-doubles.
The first half was mostly a rocking-chair ride for Ursinus, which trailed 2-0 early but quickly erased the deficit with six straight points capped by a Konstanzer bucket. F&M regained the upper hand briefly at 11-10, but freshman Gabby Downs connected on a jumper to put the Bears back in front.
Back-to-back baskets by Stephens and Kornfeld, who scored off a steal by sophomore Marisa Morano, made it 20-15 at the 6:22 mark of the second quarter, and Suler scored six straight points as part of a 12-2 spurt that gave the visitors a commanding 32-19 edge late in the frame.
The third quarter was a struggle for Ursinus, which shot just 1-for-12 from the field and was outscored 18-6. The Diplomats continued to chip away at the lead and eventually took it for themselves on a layup by Sarosha Parsons just inside the final minute of the frame.
Kornfeld's jumper with 22 seconds left in the third put the Bears ahead to stay at 38-37. Ursinus continued to stay a whisker ahead of F&M throughout the fourth quarter, going up 49-45 on Kornfeld's jump shot around the midway point of the stanza. Kornfeld set up Konstanzer for a bucket inside to stretch the lead to six with 3:57 to go, and then combined with Stephens to make enough foul shots to hang on down the stretch.
In an evenly played game, the free-throw line was the deciding factor. Ursinus was 21-for-26 at the line (80.8 percent), while the Diplomats struggled to an 8-for-19 effort (42.1 percent). F&M held the advantage in rebounding (37-34), assists (12-7), turnovers (13-15), and points in the paint (38-30), but could not overcome the free throw disparity.
Stephens added three blocks and three steals in another stat-stuffing game, while Suler blocked two shots of her own. Konstanzer finished with four assists – all in the first half – and a pair of steals.
Ursinus looks to keep rolling when it welcomes Swarthmore to Helfferich Hall on Saturday.