USUE Women’s basketball struggles as conference play begins

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Sitting at 1-4 in conference standings
Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 6:47pm

After having an impressive preseason, the USU Eastern’s women’s basketball team stumbled out of the gate to begin conference play. The Eagles went 9-5 in their exhibition season and looked poised to carry their success into the regular season.

However, the team fell flat over the first-five-conference games, going 1-4.

They began their campaign hosting the Salt Lake Community College Bruins Jan. 5 at the BDAC. This game marked the end of a 2-1 road trip that finished up the preseason.

Unfortunately, the Eagles’ homecoming wasn’t quite as welcoming as they hoped. The Bruins began the game with a 15-8 run in the first quarter and didn’t look back.

USU Eastern never led in the game and the Bruins pulled away with a strong defense and an even better offense. In the last three quarters, the Bruins out scored the Eagles 54-30 which propelled them to a 69-38 victory.

“I think that during the SLCC game, everyone was a little nervous and it showed through the way the ball was handled. However, SLCC does have a very good team, but I think that we rebounded well, and all we can do is improve,” said center Sara Morley.

In their next game, the Eagles’ found a reversal of fortune in their game against the Colorado Northwestern Spartans.

Coming into the game at the BDAC, the Spartans also came off a devastating loss, being ousted 79-39 by the College of Southern Idaho. CNCC looked to bounce back in their match up against the Eagles and deny the home team their first victory. USUE had other plans as they played a sound game all around and were able to come up with a 65-57 victory.

Spearheaded by guard Madison Loftus’ 24 points and strong play from the bench, the Eagles fought off CNCC and picked up their first win of conference play. The victory showcased a markedly different performance by the Eagles, as they improved in nearly every aspect of the game that had plagued them in their tilt against SLCC.

“The thing that I think that we have learned the most is to stick together. No matter how the game is going if we stick together as teammates things will start going our way,” said center Maile Richardson.

The Eagles played well as a group on both ends of the court. Players like Maile Richardson and Ashlyn Coleman dominated the boards, while others like Bryndie Ballam and Lauren O’Connell handled the ball well and set up timely plays. Morley, one of the big contributors off the bench, recorded seven points and six rebounds to help jump-start the team to victory.

Numbers and personal achievements aside, the Eagles wouldn’t have been successful had it not been for a collaborative effort from the team and willingness to play as such.

Unfortunately, the next two games for USUE didn’t follow this trend as they dropped both of their road contests to CSI and Snow College, losing 77-45 and 67-48 respectively.

As was the case in the first loss against SLCC, the Eagles struggled with turning over the ball and the opposition made them pay for it with their subsequent points off turnovers.

The game against the Snow was especially frustrating considering the Badgers’ defense. Snow consistently stifled the Eagles’ attempts to create any flow offensively.

The Eagles met SLCC on the Bruins’ home court Jan. 17, dropping the game 71-55.

With the first-five games of the regular season in the books, the Eagles came away with a lot of positives and many teachable moments.

“The team can build from these losses by learning from our mistakes. We need to limit our turnovers, and play more consistently all four quarters,” said Ballam. For as discouraging as the three losses may have been, Ballam gave insight into what one of the positive takeaways was and added, “ We can compete with any team we play.”

Although their record is 1-3, there are plenty of more games left to play and this squad has already shown throughout the course of the exhibition games that they are resilient enough to turn things around moving forward.

The next group of games for USU Eastern will see the conclusion of their four-game road trip against CNCC Spartans Jan. 19. The Eagles return home on Jan. 26 to host the Snow College Badgers, then play against the CSI Golden Eagles on Jan. 28. Both games will be played at the BDAC.

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