WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Junior guards Lizzy Cretella (Cheshire) and Julie Jordan (Sterling) combined on 8-of-8 free-throw shooting in the final 50 seconds after the Johnson & Wales women's basketball team had cut a 13-point deficit to four as Eastern Connecticut State University held on for a 75-65 non-conference victory Wednesday evening at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
Eastern (8-3) led by 13 late in the first half – outscoring Johnson & Wales (1-11) by ten in the second quarter – and by eight entering the fourth quarter before the Wildcats rallied with a 10-4 run to pull to within three, 59-56, with six minutes left in the game. Jordan answered with a pair of jumpers around three Wildcat missed shot to give the Warriors some breathing room at 63-56 with just over three minutes left.
Inside the final minute, the Wildcats were whistled for an intentional foul when Cretella found room inside and was held driving to the basket. She sank both free throws, and with the team retaining possession, Jordan followed with two more free throws seconds later to push the lead back to eight, 71-63.
While the Wildcats were missing three shots and turning the ball over on their final four possessions, Jordan and Cretella sealed the team's fifth win in its last six outings with a pair of free throws each.
Led by junior forward Mya Villard (Cromwell), all of Eastern's starters recorded double figures. Villard led all players with 20 points – moving to within a point of 1,000 in her three-year career – with Jordan adding 14, junior guard Sabrina LeMere (North Branford) 12, Cretella 11 and senior forward Kelsey Santagata (Stamford) ten. Villard and Jordan each had nine points in Eastern's 22-point fourth quarter. Villard recorded the 500th rebound of her career with her fourth of the game early in the second quarter.
Villard totaled double figures in points for the 11th time this year, and posted her fifth double-double in her last seven games (missing four other double-doubles by one rebound), with a game-high 12 rebounds.
Jordan chipped in seven assists and five rebounds. Santagata was 5-of-8 from the floor and added four assists and two blocks, while Jordan and Cretella were both 6-of-8 from the stripe. Eastern connected on eight of ten free throws in the first quarter, and after managing just 2-of-7 in the middle periods, responded by sinking 10-of-11 in the crucial fourth. In the fourth, Jordan was 5-of-6 and Cretella 4-of-4, with Villard hitting her only attempt from the stripe in the fourth after uncharacteristically struggling (3-of-7) from the line through three quarters.
The Wildcats were hampered by foul trouble in the second half, with four players (two starters) limited after picking up their fourth personal fouls, and one fouling out with 1:58 left.
Senior forward Ally Mishol paced the Wildcats with 19 points and seven rebounds, sophomore forward Marissa Cottrell adding 13 points and ten rebounds without a turnover in 27 minutes.
Eastern returns to Little East Conference action Tuesday, hosting Castleton University at 5:30 p.m.