The Wayne State University women's basketball team split their series at Purdue University Northwest. WSU pulled off a 61-56 overtime victory on Feb. 12, but got blown out 81-64 on Feb. 13.
WSU got off to a fast start on Friday, gaining a 15-10 lead to end the first quarter. Some cracks in WSU’s offense and defense began to show as they were practically shut down for more than half of the second quarter. With only three minutes left in the second quarter, WSU was suddenly staring down an 8-2 run from PNW.
Head Coach Carrie Lohr said she has been hoping to see other players step up into bigger roles. Freshman guard Jolee Houle happened to be the right player to snap their misfortunes on offense at that point, scoring on back-to-back three-pointers. Though she has not had a lot of playing time this season, Lohr said she was happy to see the progress Houle has made recently.
“For a freshman to shoot the way she did, especially in an overtime win is so big for us. She’s someone who has impressed me since [Grace] George went out,” Lohr said.
PNW and WSU grappled for control as they continued to switch the lead between one another. Junior guard Kate Sherwood scored the final basket of the half, leading WSU back into another tie heading into halftime.
The second half presented much of the same, a back and forth battle with neither team refusing to slow down. With four minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, PNW had a steady 53-50 lead. WSU played some shutdown defense and refused to allow any scoring for the rest of the quarter.
WSU tied the game back up at 53-53 off a free throw from junior forward Sam Cherney. Lohr said she was happy to see her team executing the game plan properly by forcing themselves inside and onto the free throw line.
“I think that’s just the style we play. Sam has done a great job of penetrating and finishing inside. Even our guards, I’m really proud of the work they’ve put into getting stronger on the inside,” Lohr said.
Neither WSU or PNW managed to capitalize off the 48 seconds remaining on the clock, and the game went into overtime. This would be WSU’s first time playing in overtime since Feb. 1, 2020, where they lost to Ferris State University.
In overtime, WSU quickly picked up the lead off a three-pointer from junior guard Alexis Miller. Though PNW tried fighting back, a pair of free throws from Sherwood sealed WSU’s victory.
After coming off a tight win on Friday, it looked like WSU came out on Saturday ready for a similar matchup. To close out the first half, PNW held a tight 35-31 lead.
The floodgates opened in the second half as WSU struggled to stop any offense from PNW. In only the opening 30 seconds, WSU allowed three back to back three-pointers and they trailed 44-34 with 8:39 left to play in the quarter.
Savaya Brockington of PNW caused problems for WSU all day, as she scored 37 points, and led her team to a convincing victory. Lohr said she recognized how good Brockington played and gave her credit in spite of all WSU’s efforts to stop her from scoring.
“Players sometimes get into that mode and, goodness sake, she was falling backward and hitting threes off of one foot. The rim was just really big for her, we tried a number of things against her but we were just unable to do much there,” Lohr said.
In addition to the lackluster defense in the second half, WSU made a lot of avoidable mistakes in the fouling department. On Saturday, they turned the ball over 11 times, an improvement from 22 on Friday. But six of the turnovers on Friday came off offensive charging calls.
Even though WSU got shut down offensively in the second half, one bright spot for their offense was senior forward Tori Perez. Historically, Perez has never been a scorer for WSU, but she found a stroke on Saturday as she scored a career-high 26 points.
Lohr said she is always looking for players to step up off the bench, but was especially happy seeing Perez have an exceptional game.
“This is the best game that she’s had in her career. We’ve all had moments, where it’s a different player on a different night, I’m happy that it just happened to be hers today,” Lohr said.
By splitting their series, WSU did not make up much ground in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s South Division. Currently, WSU sits at fourth place in the South Division and seventh place in the overall standings.
WSU will return to the Matthaei Center with the hopes of stopping the University of Wisconsin - Parkside’s two-game winning streak on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13.
Irving Mejia-Hilario is sports editor for The South End. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Cover art created by Dori Gross, graphic designer for The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.