The women’s basketball team lost for its fourth straight time in its season-worst game on Friday, Feb. 14, falling feebly to Hamilton (11-12, 4-6 NESCAC) 60-43 at Silloway Gymnasium. The Cardinals won the opening tip and started the game on a 6-0 run. Everything was ostensibly going Wesleyan’s way until the Continentals started shooting three-pointers and decided they weren’t going to miss.
The Cardinals’ Achilles’ heel all season long has been defending the three, and this game was no different. Hamilton drained its first three attempts from long range and didn’t slow down. Of the Continentals’ first 19 points, 18 came via the three-ball. After having the lead for the first eight minutes of the game, the Cardinals relinquished it at the 11:52 mark in the first half. They never led again.
At the hands of the Hamilton defense, the Cardinals rushed their shots and struggled to get enough open looks. One key to the Cards’ first-half struggles was a scoring drought that took 8:29 off the clock, ending on a jumper by Cherkira Lashley ’15 at the 6:46 mark to cut the deficit to 19-13. Wesleyan failed to bring the score any closer for the rest of the contest. Behind a stunning barrage of eight three-pointers in the first half, the Continentals cruised to a 31-22 halftime lead.
The Cardinals did not fare any better in the second half. Hamilton opened the half on a 14-5 run, swelling its lead to 45-27 at the 16:11 mark. Wesleyan pulled within one at the 4:08 mark after a couple of free throws by Captain Jenna Klaes ’14, but the Cards couldn’t find the momentum to complete a comeback.
Wesleyan scored its second-lowest number of points of the season and allowed 11 three-pointers, tying with us season worst. Captain KellyAnn Rooney ’14 paced the Cardinal offense with a modest 11 points. Brenna Diggins ’17 corralled a team-high eight rebounds, while Klaes added four steals.
Head Women’s Basketball Coach Kate Mullen gave credit to Hamilton, but also seemed frustrated with her team’s effort after the loss.
“Hamilton responded to our good start,” Mullen said. “Hamilton was playing up to the team that played Amherst so tough and Tufts so tough. I think Hamilton came in realizing that they had to bring their A-game to beat us and we certainly did not. We had a week with some distractions and it certainly showed tonight on the court. I don’t think we showed our usual characteristic fight. I don’t think we responded enough in a timely way, and we didn’t get enough plays from our usual playmakers.”
The losing streak did not end for the Cardinals (12-11, 3-7 NESCAC) in their regular-season finale at home on Saturday, Feb. 15 against Williams (20-4, 6-4 NESCAC). Wesleyan took the 15th-ranked Ephs to the brink, but ultimately came up just short, losing 76-71 in overtime.
Despite adding to their loss column, the Cardinals showed better energy and resiliency than in their game against Hamilton, overcoming an early 10-2 deficit and then some, taking a 31-22 lead to the locker room at halftime.
Williams came out firing to start the second half, going on a 9-0 run to tie the score 31-31 at the 17:18 mark. After this, neither team could establish control; there were six lead changes in the second half. Rooney came through with a clutch basket with 29 seconds remaining to tie the score 63-63. Neither team scored again before regulation drew to a close and the game went into overtime. After a dagger three by Williams with 12 seconds left in OT, a costly turnover by the Cardinals, and a pair of game-sealing free throws by the Ephs, Wesleyan was left with its fifth-straight loss.
It was Rooney’s final career home game, and she played like it, scoring a career-high-tying 22 points to go along with a career-best 8 rebounds. Lashley added 11 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double.
The Ephs committed a lot of petty larceny, coming up with 16 steals—the most against the Cardinals all season. Wesleyan also allowed a season-high 76 points on 72 field goal attempts.
The eighth-seeded Cardinals head into their first-round NESCAC tournament matchup at top-ranked Tufts (23-1, 10-0 NESCAC) on Saturday, Feb. 22 as huge underdogs. What can the Cards do to pull the upset and end their losing streak? Coach Mullen thinks it starts with focus.
“Focus on the possession in front of them,” Mullen said. “Five people, whether it’s the offensive possession or defensive possession. And also understanding that it’s not going to be the seniors doing it all, that we need five people, whoever is out on the court, doing their part.”