By Aren LeBrun, News Correspondent
The women’s basketball team recovered from back-to-back road losses by defeating the Georgia State University Panthers 65-50 at Solomon Court on Thursday night. The win improveds Northeastern to 14-10 overall and 7-6 in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
The win came despite the absence of leading scorer and senior tri-captain Deanna Kerkhof due to injury. Kerkhof is averaging 14.8 points per game for the Huskies this season.
“It just shows us that we are a team and we’re not just built around one player,” head coach Daynia La-Force said. “We showed it tonight that we are deep.”
Senior guard Kashaia Cannon and junior center Jewel Tunstull each scored 18 points for the Huskies. A’lece Mark was the third player in double figures, scoring 14 points to go with her four assists, four rebounds, and two steals. Freshman forward Samantha DeFreese chipped in five points and four rebounds off the bench.
The Panthers were led by senior guard Ashley Watson and junior guard Kendra Long, scoring 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Panthers struck first, with senior center Cody Palk feeding a cutting Tiffany Anderson for the layup. Anderson then drew a foul on the following Georgia State possession, hitting both free throws. Cannon answered with a three-pointer from the left slot to tie it, forcing a Georgia State timeout.
The teams traded buckets until a transition jumper off glass for Watson followed by a layup from Paulk pushed the Georgia State lead to seven.
After the second media timeout, back-to-back threes, first from Cannon and then from sophomore guard Amencie Mercier cut the deficit to one. DeFreese collected an offensive rebound, drawing a foul to put GSU over the limit. She hit both ends of the one-and-one to give the Huskies their first lead.
A Kayla Nolan free throw briefly gave the lead back to Georgia State, but Tunstull was fouled and hit both shots at the line to make it a 20-19 Husky advantage. After another pair of Tunstull free throws, sophomore forward Tanisha Hopewell drove to the lane and converted a layup. DeFreese followed suit with a post up score to make it a three point game going into the break.
Strong first half play from the Northeastern bench helped secure that lead. DeFreese scored five points and grabbed four rebounds in the first, along with two points, two rebounds, and an assist from Hopewell.
“I’m so proud of them,” Cannon said, regarding the first half play of DeFreese and Hopewell. “We told them we need them to step up because Deanna’s out, and they helped us out big time.”
Northeastern came out of the locker room looking sharp, with Cannon’s first two long balls of the period finding the bottom of the net. After Cannon made one of two at the free throw line, Tunstull stole a backcourt pass and converted a layup, forcing a Georgia State timeout. Tunstull then scored in the post on the ensuing possession.
Buckets for Mark, Tunstull, and freshman guard Kazzidy Stewart capped the 20-6 second half run for the Huskies, who secured a 17-point lead and never looked back.
Cannon netted a game-high five three pointers on seven attempts, giving her 16 buckets from behind the arc in her past three games.
“It feels great,” she said. “I’m getting in the gym, I’m putting up extra shots, my teammates are finding me, I’m focusing. I’m just hitting the shots, knocking them down.”
This game snapped a two-game losing streak for the Huskies, who now stand at sixth place in the CAA, a half-game behind fifth place Hofstra University. With five games left in the regular season, and the last three being at home, La-Force said she plans on making a push before the conference tournament.
“We just have to defend,” she said. “Tonight our focus was to only give up 55 points. I think if we focus on our defense the offense will come easy.”
The Huskies will hit the road this weekend for a two game trip in which they play University of North Carolina at Wilmington on Sunday and Towson University the following Thursday. They return home Sunday, March 3 to host the Lady Monarchs of Old Dominion University. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.