Lady Bearcats pick up three straight, put season back on track

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Baruch College’s women’s basketball team stormed into the Athletics and Recreation Center for its first home game of the season fresh off of two dominant performances against City College of New York and York College. The Bearcats boasted an undefeated CUNYAC record entering their match versus New Jersey City University. During player introductions, senior guard Veronica Ganzi received a commemorative basketball in honor of surpassing 1,000 career points. With friends and family in the stands, the Lady Bearcats took to the hardwood, eyeing their third win in a row.

Baruch played in a 2-3 zone defense to start the game—Daniela Arias and Kristen Podlovits guarded the perimeter as Shannon Barrett, Ganzi and Jacqueline Kennedy patrolled the baseline and wings. This formation stymied the Gothic Knights of NJCU throughout the match. Not only did the Bearcats efficiently rotate on defense to contest shots, Arias and Podlovits had a total of 10 combined steals as they displayed sharp instincts and quick hands. Only the smoothest bounce passes were able to slip through the horde of defenders, but even then Ganzi was in on the clean-up.

Kennedy, listed as the team’s only center, dominated NJCU’s paint early and often. She utilized a hard dribble and pivot in the restricted area for a layup, finished fast breaks with authority and battled for rebounds. The Gothic Knights started to use a full-court press after falling behind 15-4, but the Bearcats kept their composure and advanced the ball across half-court with ease. The visitors found success when Tiana Hill curled around Baruch’s defense along the baseline and pulled up for a 3-pointer from the corner. On their next possession the Gothic Knights ran the same play, but Hill instead swung the ball around to Kiana Briggs and hit the three.

With the deficit cut to single digits, the Gothic Knights attempted ball screens and worked the low post to get a better position on offense, but the Bearcats remained alert and communicated well to hold firm. On the other end, Baruch’s relentless surge forced its desperate opponents to resort to a man-to-man defense. The Bearcats answered with feint screens and aggressive dribble-drive penetration that frustrated the defense further. Podlovits in particular took advantage of the confusion as she launched outlet passes ahead to wide-open teammates in addition to repeated attacks at the rim.

As their lead grew, some passes became more ambitious, leading to turnovers and short possessions. Nonetheless, Kennedy maintained her gritty attitude as she took a charge near the rim. Barrett commanded the glass and consistently drew fouls, collecting 12 rebounds to go along with her 12 points for her third double-double of the season and second in a row. Podlovits’ vision and steady handles allowed her to lead the team in transition and put the ball in advantageous positions. The second quarter ended in a flurry of baskets for both sides but Baruch entered the locker room comfortably ahead 41-26.

The second half was much of the same for Baruch. Even though the Gothic Knights outrebounded the Bearcats 48 to 38 and scored 10 more second chance points, they never pulled within two possessions. Baruch coerced 32 turnovers for 33 points and limited New Jersey City to 29 percent shooting from the field. The Bearcats committed to running their set plays and never let off the gas pedal well into the fourth quarter. All five starters scored in the double-digits with Ganzi’s 27 points leading the pack. Kennedy ended with 21 points and eight rebounds and Podlovits contributed all-around with 12 points, five assists, six steals and two blocks.

The Bearcats steamrolled the Knights as they compiled a season-high 88 points. In the offseason, the NCAA levied a postseason ban for the 2016-17 season because the former women’s head coach was found guilty of relegating improper benefits to student-athletes between 2011-15. Enduring the consequences of a previous regime’s reckless actions must be a tough pill to swallow, but they have persevered despite the sanctions. The Bearcats have improved their scoring total in three consecutive games and seem to have put early season woes in the rearview mirror. With the brunt of their CUNYAC schedule rapidly approaching, the Bearcats hope to remain vigilant and are determine to power through any obstacles.

Looking ahead, the Lady Bearcats are gearing up for a slew of CUNYAC matchups as soon as the ball drops in 2017. Baruch is scheduled for six straight in-conference matchups, beginning Jan. 4 when it takes on the College of Staten Island on the road. Even before that, the team faces a tough Rutgers team. Baruch is currently 3-4, on the heels of a strong turnaround to a tough season. The team continues to build confidence with more games under its belt and it must keep the momentum if they wish to remain competitive come January.

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