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Women’s basketball falters again, loses early lead against Lafayette

Gebbia laments poor defensive effort, calls on guards to contribute more

Women’s basketball falters again, loses early lead against Lafayette

Sophomore guard Maria Liddane drives to the basket in AU's game against Lafayette on Jan. 20. 

Still in search of its first Patriot League home win of the season, the AU women’s basketball team came away Wednesday night empty handed, encountering many of the same execution and defensive issues that plagued the team earlier in the season.

A low-scoring first quarter saw AU (4-14, 2-5 PL) start with a 12-6 lead, but that lead soon vanished when Lafayette (4-13, 2-5 PL) went on a series of runs in the second and fourth quarters to eventually prevail with a 60-51 win over the Eagles.

Cold shooting throughout the first quarter hurt both sides, but AU’s success and Lafayette’s struggles at the free throw line proved to be a deciding factor in helping the Eagles end the first ten minutes with a lead.

The Eagles went 4-4 from the line, while the Leopards shot just 2-6, leading to a 12-6 AU advantage. The tables turned, however, at the end of the half, with Lafayette shooting hot from long range, going 5-6 on three pointers that quarter, all a part of a 19-2 run to seize a 28-22 halftime lead.

AU’s shooting woes continued throughout the second quarter as its field goal percentage rose only slightly from 23 percent to 28 percent. The Eagles also failed to take advantage of Lafayette’s turnover issues, only converting the Leopards ten first half turnovers into six points, and only ten points off Lafayette’s 18 turnovers for the game.

Head coach Megan Gebbia said that the failure to capitalize on turnovers coupled with poor post play in a game where Lafayette outrebounded her team 47-31 ultimately delivered the fatal blows in a game that she saw as very winnable.

“I think one of the things I was most disappointed with was the fact that they had 16 offensive rebounds. We talked about keeping them off the boards and not giving them second chance points, and we just didn’t get the crucial rebound that we needed in a timely fashion,” Gebbia said. “This is a group that just doesn’t know how to close out games, and until they do, until they get more experience closing out games, until they understand how important it is, we’re going to struggle.”

With its second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, senior Michelle Holmes, still out injured, AU relied heavily on freshman forward Cecily Carl, who led the squad with 16 points, five rebounds and five blocks. Junior forward Lauren Crisler and sophomore guard Maria Liddane followed suit with 11 points each.

“I’m extremely disappointed in our guards, aside from Maria [Liddane]. Maria played well and did what she was supposed to do,” Gebbia said, regarding the lack of production and consistent play from her backcourt. “But our two’s and three’s are not stepping up, and we can’t just rely on our post players. We’re not going to win a ton of games if we just rely on them.”

The Leopards were led in turn by their guards, sophomore guard Sammy Stipa and senior guard Jamie O’Hare, who is currently second in the Patriot League in scoring. While Stipa notched 12 points for the visitors, O’Hare acted as the thorn in Gebbia’s side all night, leading Lafayette with 15 points and eight assists while playing nearly the entire game.

“Holding [O’Hare] to 15 points, I guess, is okay, but the eight assists kills us. The second half we did a little bit better I guess, but she’s a good player, she’s a senior, she’s a leader, she’s their go-to kid, and she showed it tonight,” Gebbia said. “So we’ve got to do a better job. If we’re going to win some of these games we need to stop other teams’ best player, that has to be part of the game plan. If every assist was two points, that’s 31 points she’s responsible for.”

In addition to the low production of AU’s guards, Gebbia said that defense significantly hurt her team throughout the game, only made worse by the fact that her lineup remains relatively inexperienced due to their youth and unfamiliarity with the situation of a tight game down the stretch.

“I think it was our defense, our team didn’t follow the gameplan,” Gebbia said. “We played more aggressive in the first quarter I thought, and then we stopped playing aggressive, and so we didn’t get the turnovers for runouts and easy baskets. It’s just really frustrating because this team knows how to play a scout, and they didn’t do it. And they paid for it today, and that’s what happens when you don’t listen to what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Ultimately, Gebbia said she would be calling on some form of leader to step up and express their frustration with the team’s performance in order to reverse the Eagles’ downward trend in conference play as their losses pile up.

“Who’s going to step in and say, ‘Let’s get this done’, or, ‘Step up’ or get on somebody’s case when it’s needed?” Gebbia said. “Because they’re almost a little too positive toward each other, and at some point, somebody’s got to get mad and angry and it can’t always be me.”

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