TAMPA, Fla. – Forcing Virginia Intermont (0-1) into 28 turnovers, and connecting on nine three-point shots, the Saint Leo women's basketball team (1-0) defeated the Cobras 68-45, Friday afternoon on the first day of the Spartan Challenge (Hosted by the University of Tampa) at the Bob Martinez Athletic Center.
Teresa Manigrasso, in her first game for the Lions, led the team with 23 points as she went 3-for-5 from behind the three-point line. Additionally, Chelsea Williams was a rebound shy of a double-double as she finished the day with 13 points and a team-high nine boards. Elise Clyburn chipped in with 10 points.
Three-point shooting was the key to success for the Saint Leo in the opening 20 minutes as nine of the first 10 points scored by the Lions came as a result of the three. Kinnara Lewis, who registered the opening points of the season from behind the arc, was followed by back-to-back three's from Manigrasso as they held a 12-9 lead with 13:47 to play.
A 5-0 spurt by Virginia Intermont momentarily gave the Cobras a lead, 14-12, but another Manigrasso three once again established control of the scoreboard. From there, the two teams exchanged baskets with the Lions, backed by the perimeter shooting of Manigrasso, steadily extended the Lions' lead to eight, 31-23 at the halftime break. Over the final 5:37 of the half, the Saint Leo defense held the Cobras scoreless and forcing four turnovers.
Pulling away in the second half, the lock down Saint Leo defense, led by Chelsea Connelly and her career-best six steals, allowed the visiting Cobras to score just 22 points over the final 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, after a stagnate start to the half, the Lions' offense exploded for a 25-7 run to grab a 29-point lead with 5:37 remaining. Most of the offensive damage done during that stretch was by newcomer Colby Ryan as she scored all eight of her points during the five minute outburst. Her two, three-pointers were nearly matched by the hot hands of both Manigrasso and Clyburn as they finished with a combined twelve points during the run.
With the defense nearly impenetrable, Saint Leo kept the running lead throughout the final buzzer.
In total, the Lions shot 33.3 percent (21-for-63) from the field and 35 percent (9-for-26) from behind the three-point line. The Lions also scored 24 points off of the Cobras turnovers, while scoring 24 bench points.
The Lions will continue action at the Spartans Challenge (Hosted by the University of Tampa) on Saturday, November 10, when they battle Ave Maria in non-region action. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m. from the Bob Martinez Athletic Center.
For more on the women's basketball program, visit SaintLeoLions.com. Also, be sure to 'Follow' the Lions on Twitter and 'Like' the Lions on Facebook.