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Women's Basketball Returns to Action at Battle at the Border Tournament

Dec. 26, 2007

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Match Up: Lafayette (6-4) at University of Texas Pan American (6-6)
Tip-Off: 6:00 p.m.
Site: Edinburg, Texas
Arena: UTPA Fieldhouse (4,000)
All-Time Series: 0-1
Current Streak: L, 1
Coach Smith vs. UTPA: 0-1

TEXAS TWO-STEP: Lafayette closes out 2007 with a trip to Texas to take part in the University of Texas-Pan American Battle at the Border Tournament. The Leopards will first face host-UTPA on Dec. 28 in the second-ever meeting between the two schools. The Broncs lead the all-time series 1-0 after a 59-51 win against Lafayette on Dec. 29, 2004, in Easton, Pa.

In that game, UTPA had four players in double figures and out-scored Lafayette 16-5 over the final 3:00 to claim a 59-51 win in Kirby Sports Center. After trailing by as many as 14 early in the second half, Lafayette took its first lead, 44-43, with 4:03 remaining on a basket by Maureen Johnson. A pair of Lindsay Myers foul shots extended the lead to three with 3:19 left and capped a 12-3 Leopard run.

Dominique Montague, who finished with 11 points, answered with a triple from deep in the corner to even the score and open the Lady Broncs' game-ending run. Texas-Pan Am would score 13 straight before Kristin Doherty knocked down a three with 28 seconds left to keep Lafayette within striking range. The visitors, however, hit 6-of-8 foul shots in the final minute to seal the win.

Freshman forward Vanessa Van De Venter had a career-high 23 points, including 17 in the second half. She was 8-of-11 from the floor and 7-of-9 from the foul line while also collecting eight rebounds.

LAST TIME OUT FOR LAFAYETTE: After holding a lead for the majority of game, Lafayette could not hang on for the win as the team dropped a 46-45 battle to Vermont on Dec. 8. Senior Vanessa Van De Venter led the team with 10 points and seven a game-high seven rebounds.

With nine seconds on the clock, the Leopards found themselves trailing by just one (46-45). Junior Meaghan Malone had the team's final chance for the win but could not get a shot off before time expired and Vermont escaped with the win.

The game was a defensive battle, as the Catamounts shot just 32 percent from the field, including 26.9 percent (7-of-26) in the opening half. Lafayette was aggressive on the boards, however, pulling down 39 rebounds, including 24 in the opening half, while also finishing with 10 steals.

THE LAST TIME...: The last time Lafayette held an opponent to 46 points or less, as the Leopards did against Vermont, was when the team limited Maryland Eastern Shore to just 44 points in a 60-44 Lafayette win on Nov. 19, 2004 at the Eastern Michigan Classic.

NEXT UP FOR THE LEOPARDS: Lafayette will take on either St. Louis or Lamar tomorrow evening on the final day of the tournament. The Leopards have never faced either team in their 35-year history.

RECORD WATCH: The Lafayette women's basketball program is on the cusp of making history. The program, now in its 35th season, has played 867 games and tallied 399 wins, meaning just one more victory is needed to reach the 400 win milestone.

The team has compiled an overall record of 399-468 (.460) and has recorded five 20-win seasons.

LEAGUE LEADERS: As of the Patriot League's Dec. 22 statistics, Lafayette was the Patriot League in scoring offense, averaging 61.5 points per game. The Leopards narrowly edged Army for the number one spot, as the Black Knights are scoring 60.6 points per contest.

In addition, senior Vanessa Van De Venter is the league's leader in scoring with her 183 points (18.3 ppg). The next closest is Holy Cross's Briana Mcfadden (14.5 ppg). Van De Venter's 47.1 field goal percentage is also good for second in the league, just behind Army's Erin Anthony (.540). Van De Venter's teammate, freshman LaKeisha Wright, is third with a 45.7 field goal percentage.

ON THE MOVE: With her 10 points against Vermont, senior Vanessa Van De Venter now has 1,096 for her career and stands in sole possession of 11th place on Lafayette's all-time leading scorers list. She needs just two more to tie Dana Wolfe for 10th all-time. Van De Venter, Army's Cara Enright and Bucknell's Hope Foster are the only active Patriot League players with over 1,000 career points.

GO, GO GARNER: Junior Emily Garner's 20 points against Penn tied a career-high, matching her total against NJIT last season. She easily eclipsed her season-high of 10 as she scored 11 in the opening stanza alone.

PRIMETIME PLAYER: Senior forward Vanessa Van De Venter's earned Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week honors on Dec. 3. The Economics and Business major reached double figures 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 18.3 ppg and leads the team in rebounds with 68 (6.8 rpg). She has reached double figures in all 10 contests this year, including two double-doubles.

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.

PLAYING THE ROLE OF SPOILER: Lafayette's Nov. 29 win over Coppin State not only extended the Leopards' win streak to three but also ended the Eagles' 22-game home court win streak, the fourth-longest such streak in the nation at the time.

VANDY 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 seven of the team's 10 games this season. She is averaging 34.9 minutes of action this year and has started all nine 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 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 Lafayette was the first of the partners to make live video streaming available to fans everywhere when the 2000 Lafayette-Lehigh football game aired live on

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.