Women’s basketball off to perfect start

The Gannon University women’s basketball team opened its season Wednesday night at the Hammermill Center with a 80-68 victory over Walsh University.

The Knights continued their winning ways against Glenville State College with a 90-84 win Saturday. Gannon returns to the Hammermill Center to take on California University of Pennsylvania Vulcans at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference opener.

Gannon was the preseason No. 2 team in the country coming into the season-opener against Walsh, with high expectations after reaching the Elite Eight last year. First-year Head Coach Jim Brunelli was looking for his first win at the helm for Gannon.

Walsh played well for the first 15 minutes beating the Knights’ aggressive full-court press and 2-3 zone with timely shots. Walsh sophomore guard Kelsey Funderburgh led all scorers with 22 points, helping the Cavaliers keep it close for most of the first half.

With the game tied at 23 and three minutes to play in the first half, the Knights’ junior guard Brittany Batts connected on her third 3-point field goal of the game, which got the Knights rolling. On the next Gannon possession, junior guard Mollie Sebald matched Batts’ 3 with one of her own. Senior point guard Kelley Sundberg also added a 3 at the buzzer to end the half and a Gannon 17-4 run, giving the Knights a 10-point halftime lead, 37-27.

Gannon needed the shots to fall from deep because junior forward/center Nettie Blake picked up her second foul with eight minutes, 33 seconds to play in the first half and wouldn’t play again for the remainder of the half.

Although Blake saw limited time due to foul trouble, her presence was noticeable, finishing with a double-double, 15 points and 10 rebounds— six being on the offensive end. senior forward Jen Papich and Batts also added 15 points each.

Walsh didn’t go away easy. The team cut Gannon’s lead in half, scoring the first five points of the second half. The Cavaliers would get within four points twice in the second half, but Gannon wouldn’t surrender its lead again.

The Knights weren’t afraid to shoot it from deep with 27 three pointers attempted as a team, connecting on 10 (37 percent). Although they shot it a lot from deep, the Knights are a balanced team. Playing inside-out, they got 40 points from inside the paint.

Gannon showed depth as well, getting 19 points from its bench with 14 of them coming in the second half. Sophomore guard Morgan Neighbors hit back-to-back  3-pointers seconds after making her first appearance of the game. She finished with six points in just six minutes of game time.

It’s not all offense either, Brunelli had a full-court press on throughout the game after his team converted offensively; and if it wasn’t the press, then it was an aggressive 2-3 zone putting the pressure on the Cavaliers. Gannon forced 19 turnovers, scoring 18 points off of them and held Walsh to 40 percent from the field in the second half.

Sundberg had a game-high eight assists, and the Knights finished with 21 as a team.

Gannon seemed to cover all the bases in this one. Walsh played well and made some timely shots to stay within arms-reach; however, the Knights didn’t falter.

The Knights continued their win streak with a 90-84 victory over Glenville State College in Glenville, W.Va., Saturday.

Batts led the way for Gannon with a career-high eight 3-pointers, one away from the school record of nine set by Jacki Windon in 2000. Batts’ sharp shooting proved to be timely, giving the Knights a lead in the game with a little more than a minute remaining.

The Knights were able to smash Glenville’s 27-consective home victories dating back to Nov. 22, 2011, with the help from freshman forward Brianna Brennan and junior guard Doriyon Glass, both recording their first career double-double.

Gannon improved to an unblemished 2-0 on the season while Glenville dropped to 2-1.

The Knights return to the Hammermill Center to begin Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play Wednesday against California University of Pennsylvania. The game will be the first reunion of the two teams since Gannon’s 50-47 victory during last year’s NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional championship game.

JEREMY SCHULZ

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