MANSFIELD, Pa. – Balance, defense and rebounding were again on display in a Storm basketball game as Lake Erie ran its season-opening win streak to five games with a 69-60 victory at Mansfield (Pa.) on Tuesday evening.
The Storm (5-0) held the host Mountaineers (0-5) to just 20 first-half points, and staunch defense and rebounding helped preserve a lead in the game's second stanza. Lake Erie's new-leaders-every-night offense was paced by Chloe Irish (15 points), Shelby Carpenter (11) and Kaeding Skelton (10) as LEC again displayed balanced scoring. The Green & White forced 30 turnovers and out-rebounded Mansfield, 39-33.
LEC is off to its best start since the 2011-12 season, when the Storm started the season by reeling off seven straight wins. The Green & White have yielded 60 points or less in four of their five victories.
"We had a lot of players really step up and fill important roles tonight," said Head Coach Bob Booher. "I though the way we hit free throws down the stretch was crucial to us getting a hard-fought win."
Lake Erie sank 11 foul shots in 12 attempts in the final three minutes of the game.
Lake Erie and Mansfield evenly split the first 28 points of the game. But LEC pulled ahead by seven (21-14) when Daija Jones completed a three-point play followed two possessions later by a Sami Narducci 3-pointer from beyond the arc. Those seven points were part of an overall 10-2 run that put the Storm in control, 24-16, by the 3:20-mark.
A late flourish by senior forward Chloe Irish and solid LEC shooting late in the half propelled the Storm to a 33-20 lead at halftime. Lake Erie took advantage of 18 first-half turnovers committed by the Mountaineers. The Green & White shot 46.4 (13-of-28) from the field over the first 20 minutes, with Irish (11 points on 5-of-7 shooting) doing the most damage.
The home five got back into the game over the first five minutes of the second half. MU made seven baskets over those five minutes, cutting the LEC advantage to five (39-34). A swarming Storm defense then held Mansfield without a field goal for six minutes, but Lake Erie failed to extend its lead back into double digits. By the seven-minute mark, the Storm found itself up by five (47-42) and locked in a defensive battle, clawing with the Mountaineers for every bucket.
Inside the four-minute mark Jackie Murray answered a Mansfield three with one of her own, upping the LEC lead from four to seven (56-49). Shelby Carpenter backed up the Murray trey with a bucket to push the Storm lead to nine. That would be the final margin of victory with both teams trading baskets the rest of the way.
Chloe Irish logged her 15 points on a 6-of-13 shooting performance. Lake Erie shot 38.2 percent (21-of-55) from the floor. Irish also added eight rebounds and four steals to her final stat line.
Kaeding Skelton hauled down nine rebounds. She and Irish combined to pull down 11 offensive rebounds on a night that saw the Strom register 19 offensive boards. Lake Erie has now out-rebounded 4-of-5 foes this season.
Jackie Murray chipped in eight points and Sami Narducci added seven. Eight Storm players scored between five and 15 points in the game.
Megan McSwain led Mansfield with 20 points.
Lake Erie was a plus-nine in turnover margin, forcing 30 while committing 21. For the game, LEC outscored MU, 36-10, in points off turnovers.
For the Storm, Tuesday's game marked the front half of two road contests that bracket the Thanksgiving holiday. On Sunday Lake Erie will travel to University Heights, Ohio, to take on Ursuline (6 p.m. at John Carroll University's DeCarlo Varsity Center).
"Its not easy to win on the road," said Booher. "But when you get off the bus and play tough defense and do the work on the boards, that gives you a great chance."
Game Notes: Tuesday's contest was the fourth all-time between the Storm and Mountaineers. Lake Erie is 3-1 in the series. … Shelby Carpenter's 11 points were a season-high. … Tuesday's game kicked off a stretch of four straight road games for LEC. The Storm is now 3-0 in away games. … Lake Erie induced 30-plus turnovers for a second time this season; the Green & White came into the game forcing an average of 26.3 per game, up from 22.7 a year ago. … The Storm had a better performance on its uncontested 15-footers. LEC shot 68.6 percent (24-of-35) from the free-throw line after making just 17-of-34 (50 percent) over its last two games.