PHILADELPHIA – The No. 6 University of the Sciences women's basketball took shook off a slow to defeat NYIT 46-41 in the first-ever NCAA Tournament game on USciences' campus on Friday evening in a packed Bobby Morgan Arena.
"It was really helpful to have the crowd here," said senior Alex Thomas. "We have played in some tough environments before, so it was nice to have the crowd on our side. The support from the school was great."
The Devils (30-2) have now won an NCAA Tournament First Round game three years in a row, the only team in the East Region to do so. Their 30th win of the season ties last season's program record.
"I think it helps us that we have experience playing in these games," said Head Coach Jackie Hartzell. "To get here is an accomplishment, but to win a game and to beat a team as good as NYIT… I am really proud of our players."
University of the Sciences will play fourth-seeded Le Moyne (25-5) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night in the East Region Semifinal, with the winner advancing to Monday's 7 p.m. East Region Final and Sweet 16.
The top-seed and host had it hands full with the eight-seeded Bears though, in a game that was played within a two possessions for the first three quarters.
University of the Sciences finally made it a three-possession game for the first time when Irisa Ye opened the fourth quarter scoring with a jumper 12 seconds in.
NYIT (23-9) rallied to within two points twice, including as late as 34-36 with 5:39 remaining, before the Devils finally put the game away with eight straight points.
Ye scored the first five points before Thomas made it a double-digit lead, 44-34, with a 3-pointer with just 2:56 to play.
Ye and Thomas were the catalyst, combining to score 32 of University of the Sciences' 46 points.
Ye took over down the stretch, scoring 13 of her game-high 19 points after halftime, while Thomas chipped in with 13.
"The coaches always want me to be aggressive and drive to the rim," said Ye. "I just took whatever they gave me. I saw the opportunities and saw the lanes and attacked."
Jordan Vitelli was the only other Devil to score more than two, as she contributed eight points.
Ye's 19 points gave her 536 for the year, the sixth-most in the program's single-season history.
She also made five free throws to move into eighth in the single-season annals with 127, while her 187 field goals now ranked tied for ninth.
Colleen Walsh led USciences with seven rebounds and a season-high five assists.
Mikaela Giuliani made her first career start and led all players with a career-best four steals in just 19 minutes.
University of the Sciences failed to score for the first 7:44 on Friday evening, but the Devils still found themselves ahead 6-4 after Ye ended the first quarter with two free throws.
The two teams traded two baskets each to begin the second, with Vitelli's 3-pointer 2:04 in giving USciences the lead for good, minus one tie 53 seconds into the third quarter.
University of the Sciences led 19-17 at the break, and 31-26 after three quarters.