By Thomas Becker
Photo Janessa Hogan
All five starters finished in double figures in an 88-74 win over the Dalhousie Tigers, showing Panther fans why they could have the best starting unit in Atlantic University Sport (AUS).
The starters combined for 76 of the team's 88 points, with Jane McLaughlin leading the way with 25 points in the Saturday night tilt. Carolina Del Santo recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 11 points and 13 rebounds in the victory.
Head coach Greg Gould credited an efficient offence that was clicking all night, shooting an impressive 56.5 per cent while assisting on 28 of the 39 made field goals.
"Overall, I thought this was our best offensive game of the year," said the Panthers bench boss. "We really focused on trying to be a better transition team and I thought we did a good job of that today."
From the opening tip, the Panthers (4-5) played with a lot of energy and looked to attack the rim at every opportunity, leading to a quick 8-3 start over the Tigers (2-6).
A strong defensive effort limited Dalhousie early, but a pair of long-range jumpers kept them close, 12-8.
Following a timeout, UPEI extended their lead to as many as eight before the Tigers rallied late in the quarter to tie the game at 21.
Tiger Shalyn Field led all scorers with eight first-quarter points, while Panthers Kiera Rigby and Del Santo recorded six apiece. Rigby finished with 13 points on the night.
The Panthers' efficient shooting carried over into the second, as a 13-6 run pushed them ahead 34-27, forcing the Tigers to regroup with a timeout.
The timeout interrupted UPEI's offensive flow, allowing Dalhousie to inch closer by halftime where they trailed 38-33.
Field was held to just two points in the quarter, but still led all scorers with 10 points at the half. She finished with a team-high 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Play resumed and the Panthers continued to dominate offensively, scoring 14 points while holding their opponent scoreless, taking a commanding 52-33 advantage.
"We defended and went on a 14-0 run," Gould said about the opening minutes of the third. "And that was the game."
Dalhousie got back on the scoreboard midway through the quarter and slowly clawed their way back to a manageable 12-point deficit. But the Panthers shot a blistering 61.1 per cent in the third and carried a 65-53 lead into the final frame.
Every time the Tigers made a small run, the Panthers punched back harder and never let up as they took the game 88-74.
UPEI looks to make it two in a row when they visit the Cape Breton Capers on Jan. 13 at 6 p.m.