KENNESAW -- Alexis Poole scored 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to help the Kennesaw State women’s basketball team defeat Samford 60-55 in Saturday's home opener at the KSU Convocation Center.
The Owls (1-1) never trailed and only allowed Samford (1-1) to tie the score once at 20-all.
“I was just really impressed with our resiliency,” Kennesaw State coach Agnus Berenato said. “We just hung with it. It was never an easy game. We never had it over 10. (Samford) would close it to six, but we would always regroup and get back to 10. That just showed really good leadership by my point guard, Amani Johnson.”
The victory was a second positive for Kennesaw State this week. The Owls dropped their opener at Georgia 80-65, but they were within striking distance until the final moments.
Kennesaw State led 25-22 at the half and, midway through the third quarter, went on a run to stretch the lead to eight. At the end of three, the Lady Owls led 39-33.
Poole scored four straight to start the fourth as Kennesaw State came out on a 6-0 run.
Samford cut the lead to eight with 4:18 remaining in the game, but Poole answered with a three-point play on the other end to re-establish a double-digit lead.
The lead shrank to five with a minute remaining when Samford started fouling. Kennesaw State went 7-for-8 at the line down the stretch to close the game out.
Poole finished the day 7-of-9 from the field and 6-of-10 from the foul line. Kamiyah Street added 14 points and added eight rebounds, Gillian Piccolino had 10 points and Carlotta Gianolla scores nine.
“We just kept going to Alexis Poole, and she really dominated,” Berenato said. “She’s just grown her game. She has improved her game so much. She’s really good around the paint. I’m just really proud that she kept her composure with four fouls.”
Kennesaw State shot 34% (17-for-50) from the field, but it limited Samford to 31% (20-for-64).
“We were rushing,” Berenato said. “We got a little bit ahead of ourselves. We were anxious, we were excited. The guards were overdribbling a little bit, they weren’t waiting for the post. We just weren’t being patient. When we settled down, we were able to make adjustments on the court. We scored.”
Street scored the first five points of the game, hitting a 3-pointer on the opening possession and later scoring after an offensive rebound as Kennesaw State jumped out to an early 9-3 lead.
The Owls led 14-10 after one quarter, and after Samford tied the game with 2:20 left in the first half, Piccolino scored five in a row to give Kennesaw State the three-point lead at the half.
Samford shot only 9-of-29 from the field in the first half, but Kennesaw State could not take advantage as it shot only 7-of-23. The big difference was at the free-throw line, where the Owls went 9-of-12 in the first 20 minutes and the Bulldogs split their only two attempts.
Kennesaw State finished the game making 23 of 32 from the line, while Samford made only six of 14.
“We pounded it inside,” Berenato said. “They always had two people on Alexis, and that’s where they were getting their fouls. We just out-finessed them a little bit.”
Kennesaw State will remain at home Wednesday to host longtime state rival Mercer, then make the trip down to Statesboro to face Georgia Southern next Sunday.