The strategy, rooted in David’s upset win over heavily favored Goliath, involves no deception and no complex designs: bloody the bully.
Hit the giant hard. Hit him quickly. Hope he falls.
This time, the giant brushed off the quick strikes and delivered an early knockout punch.
The Washington & Jefferson College women’s basketball team came out calm and confident Saturday afternoon against undefeated Thomas More, ranked No. 6 in NCAA Division III, and the resident giant of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.
Upset-minded W&J had leads of 5-2 and 7-4 in the first 90 seconds, but all that did was get Thomas More’s full attention.
The Saints responded by bullying W&J with skill, quickness and maturity.
Thomas More shot 52 percent from the field, received 29 points from Division I transfer Sydney Moss and cruised to a 96-62 victory at Henry Memorial Center.
“We had some fight in us in the first half,” W&J coach Jina DeRubbo said.
Thomas More (4-0, 11-0), however, had too much quickness and too much Moss.
After falling behind early, Thomas More responded with an 11-0 run that gave the Saints the lead for good, and they led 52-29 at halftime. The first nine points in the spurt were scored by Moss, a forward who led Florida in assists and averaged 11.8 points last season when she was named to the All-Southeastern Conference team.
Moss is the X-factor for Thomas More. Her combination of size, quickness, athletic ability and shooting are a rarity in Division III. She leads the PAC in scoring at better than 25 points per game, but the best part of her play for the Saints is she rarely takes a bad shot, as was evident against W&J (2-2, 7-4).
Moss, the daughter of former NFL wide receiver Randy Moss, made 13 of 18 shots and had three assists. For the season, she is shooting 60 percent from the field.
“To get a talent like Sydney is a blessing,” Thomas More coach Jeff Hans said. “She’s a great kid and fits in well with the team. She wants everyone to be successful. She wants the team to make shots, which is why we’re at the position we are.”
That position is a cut above the rest of the PAC and the other teams on the schedule. Thomas More has played only one game decided by single digits, a nine-point victory over Wittenberg in the season opener.
“They have so many weapons, you have to pick and choose what you’re going to give up and what you’re going to try to defend, then hope they miss shots,” DeRubbo said.
Thomas More didn’t miss many shots against W&J. In addition to Moss’ 13-for-18, forward Jenny Burgoyne was 9-for-10 and finished with 19 points. The Saints also made seven three-pointers.
But what put W&J in a hole was Thomas More’s full-court press, led by Moss and fifth-year senior guard Katie Kitchen, that forced 14 first-half turnovers and made the Presidents play at a faster tempo than they could comfortably live with.
“Moss changes the whole dynamic,” DeRubbo said. “She can do whatever she wants, and she’s a team player. They already were a phenomenal team. Adding her takes them to another level. They do the same things as before, just better.”
After recovering from the early Thomas More counterpunch, W&J managed to trade baskets with the Saints until late in the first half. Thomas More outscored W&J, 18-7, over the final five minutes.
“Once we got over that initial period of being rattled, we played OK,” DeRubbo said. “The first 15 minutes we were competitive, but we fell apart in the last five minutes of the half. We can be more competitive against them.”
Beka Bellhy, a sophomore forward from McDonald, made six of eight shots and scored a team-high 15 points for W&J. Guard Alexa DelGreco made a career-high four three-pointers and scored 14 points, and Valarie Dunlap had 10 points.
Kitchen scored 16 points and Sydni Wainscott had 11 for Thomas More, which committed only nine turnovers.
“This has been a tough place to play, and W&J is a good team,” Hans said. “We were able to get after them with some pressure and create some plays on the offensive end.”