As the final quarter of the season approaches, the women’s basketball team looks to put an end to its five-game losing streak at Williams tonight. Despite the recent slide, the young team is making tangible improvements in their game. Still, it’s officially a rough patch, with last Saturday’s clash with Conn College ending 71-61 in favor of those pesky Camels.
The squad struggled from the field on Saturday, finishing the game with a 33 percent shooting percentage. It was a good fight from the Cards though, as they pieced together a sometimes-sparkling defensive display against a team that sits seven places above them in the standings. Wes forced the Camels to commit 20 turnovers, but could not quite turn that defensive zeal into easy fast break points. Regardless, it’s promising to see that the group is willing to get their hands dirty on the defensive end of the court.
The Cards’ stingy defense has always been there this season. It’s been one of their main focuses and they have certainly shown some improvement on that side of the ball.
“Our defense has always been a main focus in practice,” said Maddie Bledsoe ’18. “Coach has always put a lot of emphasis on defense and takes pride in it.”
Although they turned the ball over frequently, the Camels had multiple offensive weapons, with five different players posting double-figure scoring. Willa McKinley posted a game-high 17 points. Natalia Baum and Mairead Hynes each added 11 points, and Payton Ouimette and Kylie Caouette scored 10 apiece. Caroline Pangallo registered a team-high four assists and Meg Corcoran pulled in a game-high nine rebounds.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals could not match the Camels’ offensive output, and struggled to find a rhythm at that end of the court.
“It just felt like every time we got a stop, we couldn’t really convert,” Bledsoe said.
This has been a trend during their five game losing streak. The offense has not been able to catch that spark that they’d carried through several of their games earlier this season. The team’s leading scorer, Kaylie Williams ’16 went 3-10 from the field, finishing with 10 points while adding 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Bledsoe also had 10 points, shooting 5-8 from the field. With only two players cracking double digits in the points column, it becomes difficult to rely solely on defense to win games.
“It was just one of those days,” Bledsoe said.
For a young team hitting a rough patch in a long, exhausting season, it’s always a good sign to see the players take initiative on the defensive end. That commitment kept the game close into the fourth quarter; after Williams drained a three-pointer, the Cardinals cut the Camels’ lead to just two points. It took free throws to truly ice the game for Conn.
Such a strong fight against the Camels, who are in third place in NESCAC and have only lost four games all season, bodes well for the Cardinals as they head down the stretch. They certainly don’t lack heart and commitment which is encouraging to see, especially after the squad lost its captain Jackie Browne ’16 to injury.
The offensive struggles are understandable. The team lacks NESCAC experience and may be feeling the effects of the long season. The Cards have struggled against conference opposition, having notched their only win on Jan. 16th against Trinity, who are winless in the ’Cac. The team is averaging 60 points per game this season, but against NESCAC teams that average drops to about 55.
Turning the season around could be difficult with a tough Williams squad coming up next in the Ephs home gym, but there will be things to watch out for. If the team continues to show heart and toughness in these games, they could possibly make some noise if the offense can get hot early. If the squad can pair that zeal with the defensive feistiness we’ve grown accustomed to, a win could be in the cards. Wesleyan is second in the NESCAC conference in steals per game, while Williams is in tenth for committing turnovers. It seems like those stats certainly favor the Cards. This game is a must win for any hopes of the NESCAC tourney.