BUENA VISTA, Va. - A slow start proved to be too much for Bridgewater to overcome Tuesday night as the Eagles dropped a 96-82 decision in their season-opener at Southern Virginia.
Bridgewater fell behind 12-0 before McKenzie Jenkins broke the ice for the Eagles with a 3-pointer. The Knight took their biggest lead of the game at 24-5 before Ahlia Moone hit from beyond the arc for the Eagles, making the score 24-8. At the end of the first quarter, the Eagles trailed 28-12.
The Eagles' fullcourt pressure began to pay dividends in the second period and seven straight points to start the quarter cut the margin to single digits. Freshman Jasmyn Pierce scored back-to-back buckets and fellow freshman Mary Ruth Shifflett knocked down a 3-pointer to trim the Knights lead to 28-19.
Moone hit a 3-pointer to cut the margin to seven, 31-24, and then another 3-ball by Moone pulled Bridgewater to within six, 33-27. The hosts closed the half with a strong run and led by 13 points, 48-35 at the half.
Bridgewater opened the second half with five quick points to once again slice the deficit to single digits. Moone hit another 3-pointer and a steal by Shifflett led to a layup by Madison Baum, making the score 48-40.
The Eagles whittled the margin to six, 54-48, with 7:30 left in the third quarter on a jumper by Lindsay Estes and two free throws by Moone.
Two foul shots by Diamond Huskey with 5:29 left in the third period made it a five-point game 58-53. The Eagles had two possessions with a chance to pull even closer, but two missed free throws and a missed 3-pointer kept the margin at five points. Southern Virginia then outscored the Eagles 16-7 during the final four minutes of the third quarter to open up a 74-60 lead entering the final quarter.
The Knights pushed the lead to 16 points, 78-62, early in the final quarter before the Eagles made one final push. Moone and Pierce connected on layups and Pierce added a pair of free throws to slice the deficit to nine points 80-71, with 5:40 remaining. The Eagles, however could get no closer down the stretch as the Knights finished with the 96-82 victory.
Moone poured in a career high 29 points on just 15 field goal attempts to lead the Eagles. The Bridgewater junior made 8-of-15 shots, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. Moone was also 8-of-10 at the foul line. First-year guard Pierce had an impressive debut with 14 points and Baum scored 13.
Bridgewater's pressure defense forced 34 turnovers, but that statistic was negated by the Knights dominance on the boards where they held a 51-28 advantage.
Savanna Christensen paced the hosts with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Katie Garrish, SVU's 6-foot-3, first-team preseason All-American center, posted a solid stat line with 14 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
The Eagles return to action this weekend when they host their first tip-off event to start the season. Bridgewater plays Gettysburg at 5:30 on Saturday and then hosts Christopher Newport on Sunday at 4:00 p.m.