Women’s basketball dominates NJIT in second straight win

Junior+Jessica+Booth+%28pictured%29+goes+for+an+easy+fast+break+layup+in+the+Lafayette+womens+basketball+victory+over+New+Jersey+Institute+of+Technology.+%0A%28Photo+Courtesy+of+GoLeopards%29

Junior Jessica Booth (pictured) goes for an easy fast break layup in the Lafayette women’s basketball victory over New Jersey Institute of Technology. (Photo Courtesy of GoLeopards)

Craig Barbaro, Staff Writer

The women’s basketball team (3-5 overall, 0-0 Patriot League) extended their winning streak on Dec. 4 with a 71-64 win over the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Since their 0-3 start to the season, the Leopards have won three of their last five to get back on track.

The Leopards dominated the game, jumping out to an early lead and never relinquishing it. Junior guard Jessica Booth and sophomore guard Makayla Andrews handled the bulk of the scoring for the Leopards, each recording a career-high 20 points in the win.

“Personally, I thought I did pretty well,” Andrews said. “I think that the team also did really well. We knew what we had to do and we just stuck to the plan and we got the win.”

The Leopards started off hot, jumping out to a 6-0 lead which NJIT was able to overcome, taking a 10-9 lead of their own.

With just under five minutes to play in the first quarter, Booth cashed in back-to-back buckets putting the Leopards in front 17-13 and the Maroon and White never looked back.

“We really focus on our identity being defense,” Andrews said. “With each game, we try to focus on honing in on those defensive keys that we set for ourselves prior to the game. We also focus on improving our chemistry on the court. This is a new team from last year, so we still are working out our kinks and figuring out what each player does best.”

The Leopards closed out the first quarter up 23-17 and opened the second looking to expand their lead. Andrews splashed a three to push the lead to 26-17.

Lafayette embarked on a 12 point scoring barrage before NJIT could even adjust their bearings. The Highlanders, however, responded by going on a 10-2 run to close out the half, cutting the deficit to 38-31.

The Highlanders never quit, cutting the Leopard lead to five with three minutes to play in the third quarter. Lafayette cashed another timely three and took a 55-49 lead heading into the final frame.

Once again in the fourth quarter, the Highlanders made the game exciting, pulling within three with under four minutes to play. However, Andrews and Booth stepped up with two clutch baskets to push the lead to seven.

NJIT had one more chance to make it a close game, pulling within four, but the Leopards closed out the game for the win.

Andrews has stepped up massively for the Leopards as the team transitions beyond the Natalie Kucowski ’21 era. Kucowski played a crucial role in her four years at Lafayette, accumulating countless accolades including Defensive Player of the Year and she was selected 35th overall in the 2021 WNBA draft.

Andrews is currently second on the team in points behind Booth and fourth on the team in minutes, averaging 28 per game. Transitioning from a first-year to a second-year player, Andrews expressed how she is taking on a bigger role on the team.

“Last year, we had strong players like [Kucowski] that provided a lot of scoring and defense,” Andrews said. “With a new team that lost some key players, I need to step up and become a two-way player on offense as well as defense. I’m excited to step into that role and I know I’m ready for it.”

The Leopards will look to continue to build momentum this Sunday, Dec. 12 at Fordham.