Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Defensive struggles lead to first Patriot League losing streak of season for women’s basketball

In his quest to become the fastest coach in Patriot League history to reach 100 wins, AU women’s basketball head coach Matt Corkery fell short of the record as the Eagles lost at Holy Cross Feb. 16 and fell at home to Lehigh, Feb. 13.

First half struggles, particularly on the defensive end, plagued AU (13-11, 6-4 PL) in their 73-63 Holy Cross loss (13-12, 5-5 PL) and 71-55 Lehigh defeat (12-13, 4-6 PL). The Eagles gave up nearly 40 points in the first 20 minutes of both games as each opponent sprinted out to a lead that AU was never able to overcome in the second half.

“If you want to win games you have to defend,” Corkery told after the Holy Cross loss. “We didn’t defend.”

Holy Cross and Lehigh combined to shoot over 53 percent against AU, including a 41 percent mark from beyond the arc. The Crusaders, who shoot just 41 percent as a team on average, improved that mark by over 20 percent against the Eagles as the Mountain Hawks shot nearly 10 percent above their average. Lehigh also shot 26 free throws, in part because of their dominance on the glass.

“It’s very difficult [defensively when you give up so many offensive rebounds] because you end up fouling a lot, too,” Corkery said after the Lehigh loss. “We were minus-13 in free throw attempts and they got in the bonus quickly. When you give up second shots, nothing very good can happen.”

AU also struggled to score easy buckets in transition as both opponents doubled the Eagles’ fastbreak points’ mark. However, AU did improve from their Lehigh loss to their Holy Cross defeat as they rebounded better and scored more second-chance points.

A part of that effort to hit the glass, senior center Stephanie Anya pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds, including eight offensive boards, as she became just the 16th women’s basketball player in program history to record at least 500 rebounds. Because the Eagles crashed the offensive glass, they scored 19 second-chance points to Holy Cross’ six.

“There are a couple of positives we can take away from today’s game in that we executed pretty well offensively and didn’t turn it over,” Corkery said after the Holy Cross loss.

AU, who ranks atop the Patriot League in turnover margin, turned the ball over just seven times versus Holy Cross’ 15.

With just four games left in conference play, the Eagles rank third in the Patriot League behind Army (19-6, 8-2 PL) and Navy (15-10, 8-2 PL). AU travels to West Point, N.Y. for their next match-up as they take on Army Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. The Eagles won their first contest against the Black Knights, 45-42, Jan. 26 in Bender Arena.

The Black Knights feature two of the Patriot League’s top six scorers – senior guard Anna Simmers and freshman guard Kelsey Minato – as the Eagles look to hold Army to a low field goal percentage like they did in their first match-up.

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