A narrow split of last weekend’s games for the women’s basketball team means a newfound motivation for the second half of the season.
Despite the records and the standings in GLIAC, the conference is as lucrative as it has been for so many years. With just three games separating top seed Grand Valley and fifth place Ferris State (11-5, 4-3 GLIAC), much is set to change in the final six weeks of GLIAC play. Although the Bulldogs are sitting just above the top half of the league at fifth, the surge for March basketball means that teams are looking to find wins now more than ever.
On Thursday, the Bulldogs welcomed the Pride of Purdue Northwest into Jim Wink Arena. The Pride sits at the bottom of the GLIAC standings, but a majority of those losses came from missed opportunities.
“That’s a team, like this one, that’s lost a lot of close games,” head coach Kurt Westendorp said. “I think they’re going to be a dangerous team that second half.”
Throughout the first half, Purdue Northwest controlled with a slight lead. With senior center Chloe Idoni getting the focus of the Pride’s defense, veteran guard Mallory McCartney got a chance to facilitate the pace of play. She recorded 13 points in the first 20 minutes, causing a defensive shift for the Pride.
Purdue Northwest changed their efforts to slow down McCartney, and after a slow first half for Idoni, the lightened pressure allowed her to find more scoring opportunities. After scoring two points in the first half, Idoni recorded 21 at the final buzzer. Some effective pick-and-roll action between Idoni and McCartney allowed the latter to finish with a near triple-double (18 points, 10 assists, six rebounds).
The Bulldogs entered the fourth quarter trailing 54-58, and they trailed until a late game run put them up by seven and gave them control for the final minute of the game. With help from forward DeShonna Day’s 17 points, the Bulldogs secured the win. The team was near 50% in both shooting categories, going 28-58 from the field and 6-13 at the arc.
“We played really tough down the stretch,” Westendorp said. “Our defense improved as the game went on. We played with a lot more energy in that second half.”
With the Thursday win under their belt, the team switched their focus to Saturday’s contest against #3 Wisconsin Parkside. With a tall order in front of them, the Bulldogs were looking for their first weekend sweep since mid-November.
Switching defensive schemes from a more defensive-based, slower offensive team like the Pride to a fast-paced offense like that of the Rangers, the Bulldogs scrambled to find their defensive identity in the first quarter. Ferris started playing man-to-man defense, but allowed 27 first quarter points.
Ferris answered Parkside’s strong first quarter with 25 points of their own. Idoni was intsrumental in keeping the Bulldogs close with 12 points in the quarter. However, Ferris was unable to find any sort of offensive rhythm in the second quarter, and they were outscored 20-9. Parkside took a 47-34 lead into halftime.
Defensively, the Bulldogs moved into a zone in the second half.
“We played with more energy in the zone, so we were better connected,” Westendorp said. “It kind of took them out of their rhythm for the most part.”
With 18 rebounds on defense, the Bulldogs flourished in transition. McCartney notched the majority of her 11 assists that way, with Idoni on the recieving end. Idoni finished the day with 32 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
Ferris’ massive third quarter tied the game at 61. However, Parkside proved to be too much in the fourth and beat the Bulldogs in a 75-66 win.
Westendorp thought his team fatigued in the fourth quarter, and mentioned that they have to shoot better than 2-16 in the final frame. He said it “stinks to run out of steam.”
The Bulldogs are 11-5 overall and 4-3 in the GLIAC. After a GLIAC tournament championship last year, the team has high hopes to replicate it in 2023. The end of season push begins on the road as the Bulldogs play Saginaw Valley on Thursday and Wayne State on Saturday.