American took a quick eight-point lead last night and never trailed, earning a 65-54 victory over Navy at Alumni Hall in Annapolis.
The Eagles, picked in the preseason to finish last in the Colonial Athletic Association, improved to 7-3 despite poor shooting from the field by CAA leading scorer Kate Miller. Miller made just 2 of 9 field goal attempts but was 9 of 10 from the free throw line.
Center Jina Lewis and forward Maria Werrie led American with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
"If you told me Kate Miller was going to have two field goals going into the game, I'm a little nervous," American Coach Jeff Thatcher said of his guard, who finished with 14 points--nearly six below her average. "Fortunately, we had a lot of people step up."
American started quickly, making seven of its first 11 shots en route to a 17-9 lead 6 minutes 4 seconds into the game. The Eagles used quick ball movement to create open shots, then crashed the boards on defense to limit Navy to a single shot on most possessions.
The Midshipmen (2-5) pulled to within four on Lisa Steinmetz's jumper with 6:56 left in the half, but then went scoreless the next 5:58, as American built its lead to 30-19.
The Eagles led by 16 points in the second half.
"We have to do a couple things better. We have to focus on the board and 5 for 13 from the free throw line is not us," said Coach Joe Sanchez, who was denied his 100th win at Navy. "We hope to reach our goal at the end, but we're playing some good teams right now."
Erica Hayes led Navy with 12 points and Jennifer Bombinski added 11. The loss was Navy's fifth in its last six games.
The Midshipmen, coming off a 17-11 season, are now struggling to find a consistent scoring threat to complement Hayes. For the fourth game in a row, they failed to score more than 21 points in the first half.
For American, however, the scenerio is quite different.
After losing five seniors from an 11-16 team, Thatcher said he is optimistic.
"We know we have our work cut out for us," said Thatcher, "but frankly, we're going to enjoy this win and enjoy 7-3."
GEORGE MASON 77, LAFAYETTE 56: George Mason rebounded from its worst offensive output of the season by defeating Lafayette in Easton, Pa. The Patriots scored just 38 points in a loss to Santa Clara last Saturday.
Both teams shot well in the first half, with George Mason hitting 15 of 29 shots and Lafayette (1-8) making 13 of 26. The Patriots had a 36-34 lead at halftime. George Mason (4-5) kept up the hot shooting (53 percent) in the second half, while Lafayette faded, making only nine field goals in 25 attempts.
Four Patriots scored in double figures, with Jill Bartley and substitute Maggie Johnston leading the way with 15 points each.