PAT LONGOBARDI — Sports Writer
During this offseason, one of the most important things SCSU women’s basketball wanted to improve was their defense.
It paid off right out of the gate, as SCSU forced 26 turnovers to defeat Adelphi, 69-61, in their season and Northeast-10 Conference opener at Moore Field House.
The Owls led from start to finish with their timely shots, fast tempo and solid defense. They forced Adelphi to re-think on many occasions when they found themselves down by big margins.
In the first half, sophomore center Moni Smith-Ocran had two lay-ups off of her own misses as part of a 7-0 run to take a 19-10 lead.
Adelphi would fight back to make it 21-18 as the Owls were still searching for that turning point of the game.
Both teams were a bit sloppy in the half, combining for 19 turnovers. Each team had players on the floor fighting for loose balls. When the possession worked in Southern’s favor, they would run with numbers down the court and make some lay-ups by senior guard Sylvonya Moore.
“We wanted to lock down our defense and put them in foul trouble,” Moore said. “I saw that they were weak on defense and I decided to drive the lane, which got players open for three points. We want to dictate on offense and defense for the whole game.”
SCSU found that moment with a 14-0 run to take a 35-18 lead with less than three-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Adelphi made it a 10-point game going into halftime.
In the second half, Adelphi wasted no time when Sade Jackson made a lay-up to pull within 42-38.
SCSU went on a 6-0 run and then would take multiple leads of double digits before sophomore forward Shaniqua Fuller hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to take a 57- 43 lead with more than eight minutes remaining.
SCSU is now 8-4 all-time against Adelphi and 28-10 in season openers. These two teams split their two meetings last season with each winning at home, and SCSU has now won the last two meetings.
The Owls led 43-33 on total rebounds, had 24 defensive rebounds and also had 14 steals. Despite their turnovers, Adelphi had other chances, going 20-for- 32 from the free-throw line.
Fifth-year SCSU head coach Meghan Brown said the team was inconsistent, but it may be expected in the first game.
“We were not in attack mode on both ends of the floor,” she said. “Their leadership and decision making affected their play. Our goal is to get turnovers. We adjusted in the second half.”
Smith-Ocran said she was happy with the way the team played, for the most part.
“Our whole philosophy is to focus on defense,” Smith- Ocran said. “At the end of the day, defense dictates the game. I felt I played well. I kept up the effort and I stayed confident.”
SCSU finished 11-16, 7-15 in conference last season and were picked to finish 13th in the Northeast-10 Conference preseason coaches poll after just missing the conference tournament last year.
Sophomore forward Jessica Kitrys led Adelphi’s scoring with 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Sade Jackson scored 10 points. Senior guard Amanda Campusano and sophomore guard Shannon Flynn each chipped in nine points.
Moore led SCSU going 8-for-11 from the field on 19 points with six assists, five rebounds and five steals. Smith- Ocran also had 10 points with seven rebounds and three steals. Junior forward Keisha Primo had 10 points and six rebounds.