WORCESTER, Mass. – Denise Beliveau (Framingham, Mass.) matched her season high by scoring 24 points to help the University of New Hampshire women's basketball team overcome a 13-point, first-half deficit, but Holy Cross pulled out a 63-59 victory against the Wildcats in Thursday night's opening-round game of the Women's Basketball Invitational at the Hart Center.
New Hampshire wraps up the season at 16-14 overall, marking its best win total since the 2001-02 season, while Holy Cross improves to 19-14 on the season and will play Manhattan in the quarterfinals.
Beliveau shot 9-18 from the floor, adding eight rebounds and five steals, while sophomore Kelsey Hogan (Nashua, N.H.) recorded 16 points, six rebounds and three assists. Junior Morgan Frame (Waterville, Maine) rounded out the trio of double-digit scorers with 11 points and freshman Ariel Gaston (Toledo, Ohio) posted a game-high five assists.
As a team, the Wildcats shot 39 percent from the floor, including a 48.4 percent clip in the second half, while the Crusaders shot 35.9 percent from the field.
Holy Cross raced out to an early 6-0 lead before Frame knocked down a short jumper at the 16:52 mark, cutting the deficit to four, but the Crusaders answered right back with five straight for the nine-point advantage.
The Wildcats managed to get to the charity stripe early in the half but could not counter the sharpshooting efforts of the Crusaders as the home side held a 19-6 lead with 9:10 left to play in the opening stanza. After the teams swapped back-to-back 3-pointers, the Wildcats slowly chipped away at the lead, using an 8-3 run to pull within 25-17 with 4:50 remaining. Junior Jilliane Friel (Durham, N.H.) backboned the spurt with a key 3-pointer, while Beliveau added four consecutive points in the stretch.
The teams exchanged baskets over the next three minutes until Beliveau hit a trey from the corner, trimming the lead to eight, but Emily Parker responded with a conventional 3-point play on the other end for the 34-23 lead.
Nevertheless, UNH had the final possession of the half and Gaston flipped in a buzzer-beating finger roll as time expired to pull UNH within nine, 34-25, at intermission. Beliveau led the Wildcats with nine points in the opening 20 minutes, while Hogan and Friel added five points apiece.
After Holy Cross kicked off the second half with a quick bucket, UNH reeled off ten straight points over the next four minutes to climb back within one, 36-35. Beliveau headlined the span with six points, while Hogan and Frame also added low post baskets.
Holy Cross broke up its four-minute scoreless stretch with a pair of free throws, but UNH kept up the attack with back-to-back buckets as Beliveau's turnaround jumper pushed visitors on top, 39-38, for their first lead of the game. The Crusaders stormed back with consecutive baskets, but Hogan went on to drill a 3-pointer and even up the score at 42-42 with 12:50 remaining.
The Crusaders took back the lead with five straight points, but Beliveau scored UNH's next seven points for the 50-49 deficit at the 6:47 mark.
From there, the teams swapped buckets and trips to the free throw line over the next four minutes, with Holy Cross coming out on top, 57-52. Frame cut the lead to three on the next possession on a post lay-in, but the Crusaders hit all six of their free throws down the stretch, countering a late 3-pointer by Hogan to seal the four-point victory.
This marks the final game for seniors Beliveau, Abigail LaRosa (Hampton, N.H.) and Kelley Flynn (Hopkinton, N.H.), while Beliveau ends her Wildcat career ranked sixth in scoring (365), fourth in rebounding (843) and third in steals (201).