MANCHESTER — If you’re looking for a reason why the Saint Anselm College women’s basketball team entered Tuesday night’s game against Southern New Hampshire University ranked eighth in all of Division II, look no further than about five feet away from the basket.
At 6-feet, 4-inches, it’s hard to miss Shannon Ryan, the senior from Plattsburgh, N.Y., who serves as the hub for an offense averaging 84 points per game this year.
Ryan led the Hawks with 33 points and 17 rebounds in their 84-83 win over the Penmen that improved Saint Anselm to 5-0 on the season, putting her season averages at 29.2 points and 15 rebounds per game, both of which rank second in the country among qualified players.
The points were also a career-high, two better than her previous high, and the Hawks needed every last one of them. After leading by as many as 17 in the second quarter, Saint Anselm lost its grip on the lead thanks to SNHU’s highly efficient night shooting from the outside.
Saint Anselm’s Macie Spinks made the second of two free throws with two seconds remaining for the win.
The Penmen (4-3) made 50% of their 26 3-point attempts in the game, though none caught fire quite the way Victoria Dean did, as the senior converted on seven of her 12 long-range tries. Between her hot outside shooting and Gyanna Russell’s relentless attacking of the basket, SNHU chipped away at the Hawks’ lead in the second half after trailing 49-40 at halftime.
Russell (30 points) and Dean (29) scored 15 points in the second half alone, but the Penmen did a good job of taking Ryan away in the fourth quarter when it mattered most, holding her to three points after switching away from a man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone.
SNHU tied the game at 81-81 on a Russell free throw with 1:31 remaining and took a two-point lead 40 seconds later when Russell took her defender off the dribble and finished at the hoop.
Peyton Steinman tied things back up with a layup, but the Penmen couldn’t respond. With the game tied, Spinks was fouled with two seconds left and made the second of two free throws for the win.
Perhaps the difference was Saint Anselm’s ability to score down low. The Hawks finished with 44 points in the paint, which is no coincidence given Ryan’s effectiveness near the hoop. SNHU didn’t have anyone near the size necessary to truly deter Ryan from scoring at will one-on-one.
Saint Anselm has won eight straight games against Southern New Hampshire, a streak dating back to February 23, 2016, when the Hawks beat the Penmen 65-48 at SNHU.