Women split road games, fall one back in conference standings
Based on the Washington University women’s basketball team’s recent struggles on the road, head coach Nancy Fahey may want to deliver a similar speech.
The Bears’ shooting woes away from the friendly confines of the WU Field House continued over the weekend as the No. 7 Wash. U. women split a pair of matchups against unranked teams, defeating Carnegie Mellon University 73-57 and falling 72-68 at Case Western Reserve University.
The weekend started on a promising note for the Bears, who led Carnegie Mellon 34-28 at halftime before pulling away in the second half behind a slew of three-pointers from junior Lucy Montgomery. The Tartans’ defense was entrenched in a 2-3 zone throughout the game, designed to limit the effectiveness of Wash. U.’s formidable post play.
The zone held the Bears’ leading scorer, sophomore Melissa Gilkey, in check—her seven points marked her lowest output of the season—but sacrificed room outside the arc. Wash. U.’s shooters took advantage, sinking a season-high 10 three-pointers, with Montgomery’s five threes and 15 points leading the way to victory.
Because of the opposing defense’s scheme, Gilkey said, “We knew that we would have to knock down shots, and that’s a great part of Lucy Montgomery’s game, and I think that’s a great part of our team in general: when they stop one scorer, another scorer can step up…it’s just great that [Montgomery] can come off the bench and light it up like she did.”
Sunday’s game was a different kind of battle, with Case Western opting for an aggressive, high-pressure defense that harried Wash. U. into 19 turnovers. The back-and-forth game was decided in the final minute, when a Spartan reverse layup broke a 65-all tie and the Bears missed two contested opportunities to tie. Case Western converted its free-throw attempts in the final 30 seconds, and the Spartans had their first-ever win over Wash. U.
Gilkey was the team’s leading scorer with 21 points, 16 coming in the first half, while sophomore Maddy Scheppers added 14 in an effort to break out of a slump. But when the Spartans’ defense adjusted at halftime to limit Gilkey’s touches, the shots weren’t falling from the outside like they had two days earlier against Carnegie Mellon.
The Bears managed only 32.1 percent shooting in the second half and finished at 39.6 percent for the contest, marking the seventh time in eight road games that they have failed to crack 40 percent from the field. The only exception over that time was in a 96-67 blowout win over the University of Chicago, the team’s highest-scoring performance of the year.
With 45 combined offensive rebounds over the weekend’s two games, Wash. U. could afford to be somewhat off-target in its initial chances.
“I don’t really look at it as percentage as much as offensive rebounding,” Scheppers said. “We just keep shooting as much as we can because we have the confidence that we’re going to get the board [if we miss]…so I wouldn’t focus more on the misses because I don’t think that was more of a problem [against Case Western.]”
Indeed, the Red and Green have still won games while struggling with their shots, but the lack of offensive efficiency against Case Western was magnified by a poor showing on the defensive end. The Bears were “just not in sync as much on defense as [they] should’ve been,” Scheppers lamented. “Rebounding was good. We didn’t make as many shots as we wanted to, but I feel like our defense and communication was a little off…Give it to Case Western; they played really, really well.”
With the loss, Wash. U. falls one game back of conference leaders University of Rochester and Emory University, both of whom will travel to the Field House over the weekend of Feb. 8-10 in a pair of matchups that could create some separation in the conference standings. In the intervening week, the Bears host Carnegie Mellon and Case Western and must hope that a return home will help them find their lost shooting strokes as well.