ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The NYIT women's basketball team got tripped up at Voller Athletic Center on Friday night. The Bears nonetheless aim to return to Roberts Wesleyan's fieldhouse in March and make a statement in the ECC Championships.
In a battle of top-tier East Coast Conference programs, NYIT fell to Roberts Wesleyan, 79-70, in the first meeting between the programs this season.
NYIT dropped to 10-6 overall and 4-2 in the ECC.
In the defeat, Nina Vukosavljevic tallied a team-high-matching 18 points. That lifted her career total to 1,237 points and allowed her to pass Shanice Allen (1,230 points) for second on the NYIT women's basketball all-time scoring list. Dina Ragab holds the program record with 1,565 points.
The Bears also continued to get healthier. Tiara Place, a regular starter early in the season, returned to action after missing nine games with a medial collateral ligament sprain in her right knee. NYIT had been dressing as few as eight players in December, but the midseason additions of Hanna Ghonim and Becky Erosa and now Place's return have provided much-needed depth.
More help may be on the way, too, as Corinn Baggs makes progress toward a return. She last appeared Nov. 12, during the regular season's opening weekend.
Place logged 21 minutes off the bench against Roberts Wesleyan (11-5, 5-1 ECC).
The Bears fully erased an early 11-point deficit and pulled even at 32 when Maia Hood grabbed an offensive rebound and converted a free throw with 5:40 remaining in the second quarter. NYIT then took its first lead two minutes later when Jill Spagnuola drained a three-pointer.
However, NYIT trailed 41-39 at halftime and fell behind by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter.
"They scored 79 points," coach Kenny Parham said. "That's a lot of points. And they shot 44 percent from the field. We scored 70 points. That's plenty. But we can't give up 79 points and 44 percent from the field. We've got to defend."
Hood, who had been limited to a combined nine points last week against Molloy and Queens, returned to the scoring column in a big way with 18 points. Ghonim and reigning ECC Player of the Week Shalie Frierson had 10 apiece.
NYIT had been 0-5 at Voller Athletic Center before a dramatic 80-69 win in Rochester in the opening round of the ECC Championships on March 1, 2017. The Bears now hope to return to the Roberts Wesleyan facility again this March. The Voller Athletic Center will host the semifinals and finals of the ECC Championships this postseason.
"I think everyone in our conference has the same goal — to big back here in March," Parham said.