Women's Basketball Continues Road Swing Against Penn

Go Leopards! Junior Jessica Spicer and the Leopards head to Penn looking to extend their win streak to five.
Junior Jessica Spicer and the Leopards head to Penn looking to extend their win streak to five.

Dec. 4, 2007

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Match Up: Lafayette (5-3) at Penn (3-4)
Tip-Off: 7:00 p.m.
Site: Philadelphia, Pa.
Arena: The Palestra (8,722)
All-Time Series: 16-16
Current Streak: L, 1
Coach Smith vs.Penn: 1-4

THE MATCH-UP: Lafayette takes on Penn for the 33rd meeting between the two teams. The all-time series is knotted 16, including an 8-8 mark at the Palestra, the sight of Wednesday night's game. The two teams most recently met last season with the Quakers winning a 78-74 decision in Easton.

In that game, Lafayette held a seven-point lead with two minutes to play but the Leopards let Penn back in the door with three pivotal turnovers as the Quakers rallied for the win. Despite 16 points from guard Jessica Spicer, Lafayette could not hold on to what was at one time at 10-point lead. Penn forward Monica Naltner was a major factor in the Leopards' fate, as she poured in 30 points in the second half en route to a career-high 37 points.

Lafayette shot 53 percent (28-of-53) from the field, including 65 percent (17-of-26) in the second half. The Leopards committed just 11 turnovers in the game. Spicer led Lafayette in points, rebounds (six) and assists (five) on the night.

LAST TIME OUT FOR LAFAYETTE: In a game that featured 53 combined fouls, Lafayette recorded its fourth-straight victory with a 61-53 decision over NJIT on Saturday. The contest came down to the final minutes but the Leopards hung on for the win, their fifth of the season.

The Highlanders trailed by just one with under two minutes to play in the game but Lafayette was clutch from the free throw line, making five free throws to secure the win. Senior Vanessa Van De Venter led both teams with her career-high 28 points, including a career-high 12 from the charity stripe. Junior Meaghan Malone also had a career-day, finishing with 12 points, including eight coming on free throws.

Lafayette held the lead for the majority of play but could not pull away until the final minutes of the game. With 1:03 remaining, NJIT trailed by just one (54-53) but Lafayette would not allow the Highlanders to get any closer. The Leopards scored seven points in the final minutes of the game, including the five free throws, to seal the win.

NEXT UP FOR THE LEOPARDS: The Leopards travel to the home state of sophomore Brooke Niquette when they face Vermont on Saturday at 1 p.m. It marks the final game of 2007 for Lafayette.

THE LAST TIME...: A win over Penn on Wednesday would extend the Leopards' win streak to five. The last time the Leopards won five-straight was from Dec. 30, 1993-Jan. 14, 1994, a season in which Lafayette finished with an 18-9 overall record.

CAREER DAYS: Senior Vanessa Van De Venter and junior Meaghan Malone both had career days in the win over NJIT. Van De Venter had a personal-best 28 points against the Highlanders, including a career-high 12 from the charity stripe.

Malone finished with 12 points, the first double-digit game of her Lafayette career. Those 12 points included eight from the free throw line, as she sank all eight of her attempts.

RACKING UP THE REBOUNDS: Lafayette pulled down a 45 rebounds against NJIT, a season-high. What's even more remarkable is that not a single player finished with double figures, as Emily Garner's nine led the team.

DOMINANT DEFENSE: The 61 points Lafayette scored against NJIT were certainly a significant amount, but let's not overlook the play of the defense. The Leopards held the Highlanders to just 30.8 percent shooting in the game (16-of-52) and to only 17 points in the opening half. That first half total marked the fewest points allowed by Lafayette in any half this season.

PRIMETIME PLAYER: Senior forward Vanessa Van De Venter's performance this past week earned her Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week honors. The Economics and Business major reached double figures in those three games, all Lafayette wins. She opened the week by scoring 21 against St. Francis (N.Y.), including her 1,000th career point. Van De Venter followed that performance with a double-double against Coppin State (24 p, 13 r). In the final game of the week against NJIT, she had a career-best 28 points to go along with eight rebounds.

This season, Van De Venter is averaging 19.2 ppg and leads the team in rebounds with 56 (7.0 rpg). She has reached double figures in all eight contests this year, including two double-doubles.

LEAGUE LEADERS: As of the Patriot League's Dec. 3 statistics, Lafayette was the Patriot League leader in scoring offense, averaging 62.4 ppg. The Leopards edged Army for the numer one spot as the Black Knights are averaging 62.0 ppg.

In addition, two Lafayette players also stand at the top of the league in statistical categories. Senior Vanessa Van De Venter leads all players in scoring with her 154 points (19.2 ppg). The next closest is Army's Cara Enright (15.3 ppg). Freshman LaKeisha Wright, meanwhile, leads all players with her 49.2 field goal percentage (31-of-63). Close behind, however, is Van De Venter, with her 46.6 field goal percentage.

ON THE MOVE: With her 28 points against NJIT, senior Vanessa Van De Venter now has 1,067 for her career and stands in sole possession of 13th place on Lafayette's all-time leading scorers list. She needs just seven more to tie Maureen McKenna for 12th all-time. She and Army's Cara Enright are the only active Patriot League players with over 1,000 career points.

RECORD WATCH: The Lafayette women's basketball program is on the cusp of making history. The program, now in its 35th season, has played 865 games and tallied 398 wins, meaning just two more victories are needed to reach the 400 win milestone.

The team has compiled an overall record of 398-467 (.460) and has recorded five 20-win seasons.

PLAYING THE ROLE OF SPOILER: Not only did Lafayette record its third-straight victory against Coppin State, but the Leopards also ended the Eagles' 22-game home court win streak, the fourth-longest such streak in the nation at the time.

VAN DE VENTER VAULTS INTO HISTORY: Just six games into the season, Lafayette fans had the opportunity to witness history. Senior forward Vanessa Van De Venter became only the 14th Lafayette player to score 1,000-plus points in the program's 35-year history when she finished with 21 points against St. Francis. Her 1,000th career point came on a layup early in the game. Van De Venter also became the first to achieve the milestone since Colleen Fitzpatrick did so during the 2003-04 season.

FIFTY-FIFTY: In the win over St. Francis, the Leopards shot nearly 52 percent from the field (27-of-52), including a 59 percent performance in the second half. The last time a Lafayette team shot .500 or better from the field was on Feb. 10 of last season when the Leopards shot 54.5 percent.

STEADY SPICER: Junior Jessica Spicer has led Lafayette in minutes played in five of the team's eight games this season. She is averaging 34.2 minutes of action this year and has started all eight games. As a sophomore, she also led the team in minutes played, playing over 32 minutes per contest.

OFFENSIVE OUTBURST: Lafayette's offense erupted for 78 points in its victory over Princeton (11/24) as four players reached double figures for the first time since January 25, 2007. The 78 points were the most since Dec. 2, 2005, when the Leopards scored 85 in an overtime loss at Howard. The offensive production against Princeton marked the most points scored in regulation since an 89-80 win at Colgate on Jan. 11, 2003.

Lafayette also shot 47.1 percent from the field and a season-best 71.4 percent from the charity stripe in the win. That marked the first time this season the Leopards recorded better field goal and free throw percentages than their opponent and it proved to be the formula for success.

DOUBLY DELICIOUS: Senior Vanessa Van De Venter and junior Jessica Spicer each had a double-double against Princeton. Van De Venter finished with 19 points and 10 boards, while Spicer had 13 and 10, respectively. The last Lafayette player to record a double-double was Emily Garner, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds against Army on Feb. 20 of last season.

IT'S BEEN A WHILE: It's been a long time since two Lafayette players had a double-double in the same game as Van De Venter and Spicer did against Princeton. In fact, you have to go back to the 2005-06 season when Lindsay Myers (15 p, 11 r) and Emily Garner (13 p, 10 r) both accomplished the feat in a 71-59 win over Fairleigh Dickinson on Dec. 21, 2005.

HELPING HANDS: The Leopards had a season-best 17 assists against Princeton. Eight different players chipped-in assists with junior Jessica Spicer recording a team-high five.

IT'S ALMOST CRIMINAL: Lafayette's 15 steals against Columbia marked the first time since Feb. 6, 2007, that the Leopards recorded 10 or more steals in a single game. Junior Jessica Spicer accounted for five of those steals, just one shy of her career-high of six (vs. Bucknell, 1/16/07). As of Dec. 3, those 15 steals were tied for the most in a single game by any Patriot League team this season (American recorded 15 vs. Wagner on Nov. 19).

WHAT AN HONOR: Vanessa Van De Venter opened the 2007-08 season on a high note. The senior tri-captain scored in double figures in Lafayette's three games during the first week of the season. She had 12 against Monmouth (11/12), 18 vs. Cornell (11/15) and 17 against Mount St. Mary's (11/17). Those numbers were impressive enough to earn her honorable mention from the Patriot League on Nov. 19.

THE WRIGHT WAY: Freshman LaKeisha Wright scored a game-high 20 points in Lafayette's 71-56 loss to Cornell on Nov. 15. The last freshman to reach double figures in scoring for Lafayette was Emily Garner in 2005, who netted 12 in an overtime battle with Navy on Jan. 14 of her freshman season.

WHAT A WAY TO START: The Leopards opened their 2007-08 campaign with a thrilling 65-64 win over Monmouth at Kirby Sports Center. A layup by senior Vanessa Van De Venter with three seconds on the clock lifted the team to the season-opening victory.

Junior guard Cristin Zavocki led Lafayette with 14 points including a 3-for-7 showing from three point range. Van De Venter finished with 12 points and junior forward Meaghan Malone chipped in a career-best nine points while also pulling down five rebounds. All three of the team's freshmen saw playing time with LaKeisha Wright earning her first collegiate start. Wright finished with five points and three boards in 24 minutes of play.

RIGHT AT HOME: With their home-opening win against Monmouth, the Leopards recorded their fourth-straight home-opening victory. The streak began with a 63-47 win over Radford on Dec. 2, 2004.

STEP RIGHT UP: All three of Lafayette's freshmen saw action in the season opener against Monmouth. LaKeisha Wright was given her first collegiate start and finished with five points and three rebounds in 24 minutes of play. Classmates Elizabeth Virgin and Lauren Jackson came off the bench for the Leopards. Virgin saw 22 minutes of playing time and pulled down three rebounds to go along with two points and one assist. Jackson saw three minutes of game action and chipped in one assist.

SMITH ON THE SIDELINES: Head coach Tammy Smith is in her seventh season at Lafayette and 13th overall as a head coach. In 2006-07, she directed the Leopards to its highest-ever seed in the Patriot League Tournament (No. 6) and has nearly doubled her win totals after each season on College Hill.

Smith is the fourth head coach in Lafayette's 35-year history. She has a career record of 145-214 (.404), which includes a 113-68 mark and two NCAA Tournament appearances in seven seasons at D-III Muhlenberg.

ACADEMIC ACCOLADES: The Lafayette women's basketball team received the NCAA Public Recognition Award for recording an NCAA Division I Academic Progress Rate in the top 10 percent of all women's basketball teams. The team, under the direction of seventh-year head coach Tammy Smith, was one of 14 other Patriot League squads to have a perfect 100 percent graduation rate for the fall class of 2000.

CLOSE TO HOME: Three players with local connections - Val Gomez (Allentown, Pa./Emmaus), Vanessa Van De Venter (Tannersville, Pa./Pocono Mountain East) and Amanda Leone (Easton, Pa./Easton) - account for over half of Lafayette's five players from the Keystone State. Van De Venter started all 30 games last season and led the team in scoring (12.0 ppg), while Gomez battled through a knee injury and started 12 games last year. Sophomore Leone saw playing time in four games during last season.

FRESHMEN FACES: Lafayette welcomed three freshmen to the squad this fall: Lauren Jackson, Elizabeth Virgin and LaKeisha Wright.

Jackson hails from Argyle, Texas, where she played four years of varsity basketball at Liberty Christian. She averaged 17.2 points per game and a 46.8 field goal percentage as a senior. She earned first team All-State honors that season and helped guide her team to its first-ever state championship title.

Virgin joins the Leopards from Novato, Calif. She was a four-year member of the basketball team at Marin Catholic and earned three varsity letters. Virgin was also named to the First Team All-MCAL and earned East Bay honorable mention.

An Upper Marlboro, Md. native, Wright played four seasons of basketball at Eleanor Roosevelt. She saw playing time at multiple positions, averaging 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists during her career. Wright amassed 1,000 points during her career and was a member of three state championship teams.

PATRIOT LEAGUE PRESEASON POLL: The Leopards were picked to finish in a tie for sixth place in the Patriot League's preseason poll. Lafayette received 33 points, as did Navy. Bucknell garnered the top spot with 10 first place votes. Army received four to place second, followed by Holy Cross, American and Lehigh.

	Team	Points
1.	Bucknell (10)	92
2.	Army (4)	83
3.	Holy Cross (1)	77
4.	American (1)	62
5.	Lehigh	46
6.	Lafayette	33
6.	Navy	33
8.	Colgate	22 
() indicates first place votes

MOVIN' ON UP IN `06-07: Lafayette can add "overachiever" to its list of attributes for the 2006-07 season. A team that was picked to finish in last place in the Patriot League's preseason poll, the Leopards finished the Patriot League regular season in sixth place. Five of Lafayette's seven wins came in league play, as the Leopards posted the most conference wins since 1997-98.

REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD: There is no denying the chemistry between sophomores Jessica Spicer and Emily Garner on the court. Perhaps that is because the two have a long history of playing ball together, beginning an AAU stint when the girls were just 10 years old. They played on the same AAU team from that point in Fairfax, Va., while also both making the varsity team at Robinson High School as freshmen. Midway through their sophomore years, Spicer's family moved to Illinois, but the duo reunited at Lafayette for the 2005-06 season.

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: Lafayette dropped seven games by ten points or less last season, which included a 78-74 loss to Penn (12/7) and a 60-57 heartbreaker to Morgan State (12/9) just two days later.

LAFAYETTE ON TELEVISION: For the 11th straight season, Lafayette features the most expansive television package in the Patriot League. This winter, nine of Lafayette's women's basketball games will be televised during the 2007-08 season, with the possibility of three more games being added during the three rounds of the Patriot League Tournament in March.

All nine telecasts will be produced by the Lafayette Sports Network (LSN), which annually produces the most expansive and highest quality television packages in the Patriot League. Each of those broadcasts will air live regionally to more than 10 million viewers on RCN-4 and WBPH-60.

As an element of Lafayette's long-term multi-media agreement with CSTV, all LSN telecasts are streamed live on the internet and available worldwide through LSN All-Access on GoLeopards.com. Lafayette was the first of the CSTV.com partners to make live video streaming available to fans everywhere when the 2000 Lafayette-Lehigh football game aired live on GoLeopards.com.

Emmy-nominated local sports broadcaster Gary Laubach will handle all of the Leopards' play-by-play duties for the 11th straight season. Former Lafayette men's basketball coach John Leone will provide color analysis for the 10th season. In his seventh year as a member of the announcing crew is RCN's Dan Mowdy, who will report on the Leopards from the sideline.

 

 

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