Second Half Comeback Leads Owls Over NYIT, 68-60 

Matt Gad – Contributor 

Coming off a 62-57 win over the weekend at Pace, the Owls (7-3, 3-3) came into Monday night’s contest with the nine-win New York Institute of Technology Bears focused on the task at hand.

The Bears came out strong, taking an 8-0 lead minutes into the first quarter before the Owls stormed back to trim the deficit to two with six unanswered points. They went into locker room down 42-34, having converted two of their final three baskets, a three from Imani Wheeler and a layup by Amanda Phofl off her own steal.

“We made a little run at the end of the first half and then made some defensive adjustments at halftime,” head coach Kate Lynch said. “Kiana had been playing well in the post and we just wanted to close out more on shooters.”

The Owls scored the first 10 points of the second half and took their first lead of the night at 44-43 with 2:43 left in the third.

“We’re proud of the defensive effort and focus in the second half that got us back in the game,” Lynch said.

Wheeler’s three early in the fourth quarter gave the Owls a 51-45 lead and they then started another run to close out the game.

Aaliyah Walker, with eight, was the only starter not in double-digits. Wheeler scored a career-high 17 points on 6-15 shooting, Allie Smith had a career-best 10, Phofl recorded 13, as well as four rebounds, three assists and a career-best five steals and Steinauer posted 20 points and 20 rebounds, her second career game with 20 points and 20 rebounds. She became the first women’s basketball player to record two such games, previously doing so on Dec. 2, 2017.

“I wanna do whatever I can for this team,” Steinauer said. “I wanna make sure we get the wins and everyone’s just trying to step up.”

Lynch said a number of the players have stepped up so far this season and she said there’s been a “collective step forward” in the team responding to the earlier three-game skid.

“We expect Kiana to get every rebound … she plays really hard and it’s fun to watch her grow,” Lynch said. “She’s one of our leaders now. And Imani can take over the team with Murphy Murad’s graduation.”

She also said that Phofl, a senior and the team’s so-called sharp shooter in the absence of recent graduate Abby Hurlbert, has been “getting better each year” and that “sometimes you just gotta sit on the bench and wait your turn.”

Pfofl averages 12.9 points per game and is shooting a .358 field-goal percentage, including .366 from three.

“Everyone was hitting shots and it was a good team effort today,” Wheeler said. “We prepared well and we knew it would be a tough battle because of their record but we never thought that we didn’t have a chance. We just worked hard and followed the game plan.”

The Owls will look to improve to 8-3 with another non-conference matchup Saturday at Chestnut Hill at 1 p.m. in Philadelphia, Pa. Jessica Fressle is listed as day-to-day, Lynch said, from an injury that occurred before the NYIT game. If Fressle is unable to go, it is likely that Smith will start again in her place.

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