FAST START PACES VCU TO 79-58 WIN AGAINST NORTHEASTERN

RICHMOND, Va. – Junior Courtney Hurt (pictured, left) registered game-highs of 19 points and 13 rebounds, while classmate Andrea Barbour added a career-best 17 points and Virginia Commonwealth University never trailed in a 79-58 victory against Northeastern Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

VCU improves to 9-6 overall with a 4-1 mark in Colonial Athletic Association play, while Northeastern falls to 6-10, 1-4.  The Rams have won eight straight against the Huskies.

"I thought our team did a great job responding today after Thursday's loss at Towson," said VCU Head Coach Beth Cunningham. "Our biggest challenge coming into today was how we were going to respond.  Our kids came out and played what might have been our best [first half] of the season.  I'm really proud of the intensity we showed from start to finish."

Hurt posted her NCAA-leading 14th double-double of the season and needs just four more to tie VCU's single-season record.  Barbour (pictured, below) hit 7 of 9 field goal attempts to go along with six rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block for the Rams.  Sophomore Sonia Johnson contributed 12 points, while senior Jessica Taylor chipped in eight.  Freshman Robyn Parks added five points and tied a career-high with seven rebounds off the bench.

VCU hit five of its first seven from the field and raced out to a 10-0 lead during the first 3:30 of the contest.  The Rams went on top 16-3 on a free throw by Barbour at the 15:26 mark before Rachael Pecota pulled Northeastern within 17-9 from the charity stripe less than two minutes later.

It was as close as the Huskies would get, however, as VCU held a double-digit advantage the remainder of the game.

Kashaia Cannon cut the VCU lead to 26-16 on a layup with 9:58 to go but the Rams, who shot 54.5 percent (18 of 33) in the first half, used a 17-4 spurt to go on top 43-20 with less than two minutes remaining before the break.  Jewel Tunstull then pulled Northeastern within 21 on a jumper with 31 seconds showing.

The Huskies regrouped and scored 11 of the first 17 points of the final stanza and Pecota hit a 3-pointer with 14:52 left to cut the VCU lead to 49-33. 

Northeastern made one final push and pulled within 12 at 58-46 with 6:30 to go, but the Rams responded with a 13-4 run to put the game away.

VCU forced 15 turnovers and dished out a season-high 19 assists, led by junior guard Jennifer Lane's team-best seven.

"We did a great job defending them from the start of the game," Cunningham said.  "Our defensive pressure really got us going on the offensive end of the floor.  We were able to then get some baskets in transition and keep pressure on them.  Our team really played selfless today.  Everyone was willing to make the extra pass to the open person."

VCU's inside presence was felt once again as the Rams scored 36 points in the paint and tallied 25 second chance points.  Northeastern registered just 16 and eight, respectively.

Cannon led the Huskies with 17 points, while Pecota added 15 off the bench.

VCU hits the road for a pair of pivotal CAA contests next week.  The Rams travel to Old Dominion on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. before facing James Madison on Jan. 23 at 2 p.m.

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