AMHERST, Mass. – Coming off a 20-point loss three days earlier to a solid but not overpowering Trinity College team, the Eastern Connecticut State University women's basketball team erased a 17-point deficit over the final nine minutes to stun No. 1 nationally-ranked and two-time defending national champion Amherst College, 70-67, and end the Mammoths' 68-game winning streak Tuesday evening at LeFrak Gymnasium.
Eastern (2-1) outscored Amherst (2-1) 26-8 in the fourth quarter, sinking 14 of 19 free throws, forcing the hosts into 4-of-19 field goal shooting, and getting ten points and four rebounds from junior center Mya Villard (Cromwell). The Warriors shot 54.5 percent from the floor over the final ten minutes, Amherst just 21.1 percent.
Trailing by 16, 65-49, with just under eight minutes left, Eastern outscored the hosts, 21-2. Trailing by one, Eastern took its first lead, 66-65, on an inside bucket by Villard off a pass from junior guard Sabrina LeMere (North Branford). After Amherst answered to take its final lead, the Warriors moved ahead for good, 68-67, on another inside bucket by Villard with 33 seconds left. . Following a timeout, Amherst missed a jump with 21 seconds left and freshman Julie Keckler (Trumbull) sank two free throws when she was fouled after the miss. Meghan Sullivan's attempt at a game-tying three-point was off the mark and Keckler grabbed the rebounds as time expired.
Amherst, which had beaten Eastern the last 11 times the program had met, raced to an 8-0 in the opening minutes, but led only 11, 43-32 at the break. The Warriors quickly cut the deficit to five in the opening three minutes of the second half before Amherst responded with a run of nine straight points that pushed its lead to 14, 54-40, with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Villard led all scorers with 23 points, grabbed a team-high nine rebounds and blocked two shots, while senior forward Kelsey Santagata (Stamford) had 17 points and seven rebounds, Keckler had 11 points and eight rebounds and freshman guard Jenna Serrantino (Cromwell) added 12 points (8-of-8 FT) in her first career start.
The Warriors shot nearly 50 percent (48.9) from the floor and the Mammoths' game mark of 38.7 was due in large part to missing 14 of 16 three-point field goals.
Eastern got only two points from its bench and was outscored by 15 (18-3) off turnovers but survived, thanks mainly to 21-of-29 shooting from the foul line.
Prior to Tuesday, Amherst's last loss had come March 19, 2016 to Thomas More in the NCAA Division III national semifinals at Columbus, OH by a score of 74-65, which was also the last time the team had allowed as many as 70 points.
After defeating Amherst on the Mammoths' home court by 45 points in the first meeting betweeen the programs in 1983-84, the Warriors had lost the last five times by an average of 22 points at Amherst, including a 39-point dismantling in their last meeting at Amherst two years ago.
The home loss was the first after 43 straight wins for Amherst (eight of them coming in NCAA tournament play), which had captured 164 of its previous 165 at home heading into Tuesday. The team's only home loss in that stretch had come against Tufts University (52-51) on Feb. 6, 2016 and had snapped a 121-game home streak – the longest in NCAA women's basketball history and second-longest in NCAA basketball history behind the University of Kentucky men's team, which had won 129 in a row at home between 1943 and 1955.
Eastern hosts Williams College Sunday at 3 p.m. in its home-opener.