Women’s basketball late season struggles continue
Hunter O. Lyle –Sports Editor
The Owls faced off against Le Moyne College on Saturday, losing the contest 69-58 in the latest continuation of struggles for the women’s basketball team as they attempt to battle for the final playoff spot in the NE10.
Coming into this game against the Dolphins, who posted a record of 15-8 overall and 11-5 in conference, Southern had lost six out of the team’s last seven games, including a 58-53 overtime loss at Pace University on Feb. 11. Forward Alexa Kellner, a redshirt freshman, said while the teams were unmatched in records, she and her team went into the game with the mindset of business as usual.
“We just wanted to do our job,” said Kellner. “We just wanted to focus on things that we needed to do in order to come out with a win.”
In the opening quarter, while Le Monye controlled the pace by quickly passing up court, trying to catch the defense off-guard, both teams struggled so sink shots. Neither team shot over 40 percent from the field — Southern shot 5-for-14 (35 percent) and Le Moyne 5-for-13 (38.5 percent).
While Southern’s offense became stagnant through the first quarter, the Owls were able to hold a lead in the first quarter by relentlessly forcing turnovers, of which Le Moyne had eight in just the opening period. In the second quarter, Southern’s offense bounced back by way of increased shooting efficiency. Whereas the Dolphins continued to struggle, Southern shot 54 percent — 6-for-11 — from the field in the second quarter and sank exactly half their shots — 2-for-4 — from deep.
“I think we just had confidence [in the second quarter,] and we make those shots in practice,” said guard Imani Wheeler, a senior who tallied three steals in the first half, “I think we just starting to learn how to make them in games.”
At the end of the half, the Owls had maintained their lead and went into the halftime break with an eight-point lead, 30-22.
In the second half however, Le Moyne came out of half time looking like a different team, almost immediately making shots and forcing turnovers. The Dolphins full-courtpress consistently either slowed or stopped the Owls momentum or trapped the ball in the backcourt, forcing Southern to make long, and sometimes risky passes.
On the offensive side, the Dolphins looked to get the ball inside the paint, and with help of their forwards, attacked the glass tenaciously, gaining multiple offensive rebounds and second-chance points. With five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Le Moyne had tied the game at 32- 32, and going into the fourth and final quarter, had fought to take a one-point lead over Southern.
“We just didn’t trust each other the last half. Bad communication, we just kind of lost focus and I think when we get tired we do that a lot,” said Wheeler, “so, we just have to learn how to stick with it through the tough moments and fight adversity.”
The fourth quarter was dominated by Le Moyne. The continuous full-court-press from the Dolphins forced turnover after turnover and the team’s shooting struggles from the first half were nowhere to be found, as the Dolphins shot 46 percent (6- for-13) from the field, including 37 percent (3- for-8) from deep. The opposite could be said for the Owls, who shot a mere 20 percent (3-for15) and 28 percent (2-7) from deep.
The team’s defense coupled with the creation of multiple second-chance opportunities allowed Le Moyne to pull away and claim victory 69-58, handing Southern it’s 16th loss of the season.
While Southern’s record may look bleak, the team may still have a chance to make the playoffs with three games left in the season. They will play two home games, on Feb. 19 against Elm City rival New Haven and on Feb. 22 against the College of Saint Rose before taking on Pace on the road on Feb. 25 for the last game of the season. If the Owls win at least two, and some other pieces fall into place around the conference, the team may still be looking at post-season play.
“It’s very important [to win these upcoming games.] We’re trying to stay in and make playoffs, so we have to win at least two of these three,” said Wheeler. “They’re very winnable games, especially the last two, so we’re right there, we just got to stay focus and push through.”
Photo Credit: Izzy Manzo