SELINSGROVE -- Heading into a crucial stretch of the season, it's critical for the Susquehanna women's basketball team to defend home court the rest of the way.
Needing a pair of wins this weekend, it didn't seem likely after the first half Friday night against Drew University.
So, with a little added urgency to perform in the second half, Susquehanna dialed in one of its best all-around halves of the season.
The Crusaders dominated every major statistical category, outscoring the Rangers 41-21 in the second half in a convincing 65-51 victory at O.W. Houts Gymnasium. It was a career night on two ends for Susquehanna as Erika Barron, who set the all-time record for 3-pointers earlier this season, added the single-season mark to her resume, surpassing Danville grad Amy Harrington's mark of 43 set in 2002. Rachal Schiable then pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds as the Crusaders owned the glass 48-35, turning 17 offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points.
Barron finished with a game-high 20 points, sharing honors with Drew's Danielle Barber, while double-double machine Gina Palazzi added 14 points and 10 boards for her seventh feat of the season. Shannon Grunwald was the third Susquehanna player in double figures, chipping in with 16 points off the bench and helping the Crusaders earn a 25-5 edge in bench scoring.
"Not only did we make shots in the second half, we got better looking shots and because of that shot a much higher percentage," said Crusaders coach Jim Reed. "That forced them to play against a set defense and I feel when we execute we are very tough to beat in the halfcourt game."
The Susquehanna (8-9, 3-3 Landmark) offense shot 48 percent in the second half, opposed to just 29 percent in the opening half. The defense meanwhile forced 21 turnovers, turning them into 21 points and holding Drew (8-8, 1-5) to just 20 percent shooting in the second half and 26 percent for the game.
"To hold a team to 21 points in a half is just a great half of defense and it was fueled by the offense," added Reed. "When you're a plus 22 in points off turnovers and second-chance points combined, that usually means a win."
Drew would hold the lead for the final six and half minutes of the first half to lead by as many as six, which was its halftime advantage. That would be the only bright spot of the game for the visitors as Barron hit back-to-back treys to trigger a 10-0 Crusader run to open the second half. The Rangers would answer back with five straight points for their final lead of the game before Susquehanna took over.
An 18-4 Crusader run then put the game out of reach. Drew would record just two field goals over a 12-minute stretch while Barron's fifth three of the game with just over two minutes to play upped the Susquehanna lead to 18, its largest of the game.
"Even the girls that don't regularly start, like Rachael (Schiable) are ready to play and so I'm never too concerned about that and 15 rebounds is a monster game," Reed said. "Gina (Palazzi), when she slows down, makes a lot of plays and is also an aggressive rebounder."
"Moravian, Scranton and Catholic all swept Drew and Merchant Marine in the first meeting, so not only do we need to win these home games but we need to keep pace with the rest of the pack. We just need to hold our ground and then make the most of our chances against the top teams at home in a few weeks."