ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The Ursinus College women's basketball team had a rare win in Allentown within its grasp, but a massive road narrowly slipped through in a tough 56-54 setback at Muhlenberg on Tuesday night.
The Bears (7-13, 6-9) had the ball and a chance to win or tie with 10.7 seconds remaining in regulation, but Lydia Konstanzer's elbow jumper bounced off the rim, and Aliyah Stephens was unable to get a put-back attempt off in time as the Mules eked out a barnburner with huge Centennial Conference playoff implications.
Another double-double from Konstanzer and a breakout performance from rookie Alyssa Martin put Ursinus on the cusp, but Muhlenberg (10-9, 8-6) stretched its winning streak over the Bears in Memorial Hall to 12 games. Ursinus now trails Swarthmore and Dickinson by two games for the fifth and final playoff spot.
Konstanzer scored the game's first bucket on an assist from Martin, a harbinger of success for what proved to be a prolific pairing. Konstanzer had eight points in the opening quarter alone, and Martin dropped in the first of five 3-pointers to stake the Bears to an 18-13 lead after one.
Muhlenberg, which moved into fourth place in the CC table, began the second quarter on a 10-0 run before Martin splashed another 3, but Mikaela McGarvey's triple had the Mules in front by five, 28-23, midway through the period.
Trailing 31-28 at the break, Stephens got on track in the early part of the third after going 0-for-7 from the field in the first half. A pair of baskets and a free throw dotted an 8-2 spurt out of the locker room, and a 3-pointer by Martin put Ursinus ahead 39-37 at the 4:30 mark before the Mules scored six straight to take the lead for good.
Still down five with under three minutes to go, Konstanzer grabbed an offensive board and kicked out to Martin, who buried her fifth 3 of the night to make it 51-49. After Konstanzer split a pair at the line to halve the deficit to one, Tara Szawaluk came up with a critical 3 to extend the hosts' lead back to four at 54-50 with 1:48 left.
McGarvey's lay-up made it a five-point game once more, but Morano drove the lane for a basket and the foul, converting the old-fashioned three-point play to pull Ursinus within 56-54 inside a minute remaining. After Konstanzer secured the carom off a Muhlenberg miss, the Bears drew up a final play and got a good look, but the potential game-tying jumper was just off line.
Konstanzer wound up with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting and collected a dozen rebounds for her fifth consecutive double-double, also tallying three blocks and two steals.
Martin was on fire in her first career start, going 5-for-8 from distance for a season-high 15 points after coming into the night with 35 for the year. The rookie also chipped in with four rebounds and four assists.
Stephens had a tough night from the field but managed to post 10 points with seven rebounds and three assists, and Morano had seven points and five assists.
Both teams were about even from the field, and Ursinus held a 40-31 edge on the boards to grab a 15-5 advantage in second-chance scoring. However, the Bears committed 21 turnovers to only 13 for the Mules.
Women's basketball hopes to keep its postseason dreams alive against No. 19 Gettysburg on Thursday night.