Sophomore forward Jane Nwaba goes for a shot against Gonzaga on Jan. 27. Nwaba scored 13 points in the loss. Photos by Brandon Rubsamen
After defeating Loyola Marymount (7-11) on Jan. 25, the team was unable to keep its win-streak. The team is in the midst of playing four games in seven days due to COVID-19-related rescheduling.
“We’ve struggled to get into a rhythm because we had eight players for a couple of games, so that’s been really tough for all of us when we’re playing out of position,” redshirt junior forward Eve Braslis said. “I think the biggest takeaway from these past two games is that we have the ability to play well together, and we just need to keep practicing hard and playing consistently.”
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 9-0 to start the game on four-for-10 shooting.
The Waves finally got on the board after senior guard Cheyenne Givens scored a layup on the left baseline with 6:28 remaining in the first quarter. Stedman scored her first basket of the night on the opposite baseline after curling off two screens.
Gonzaga would execute a 1-2-2 full court press, which eventually flowed into a 3-2 zone in the half-court. Redshirt junior Jayla Ruffus-Milner read the play and connected on a floater out of the trap.
“When they go to a 3-2 zone, we went to a different offense that would be more appropriate for that,” Head Coach Kristen Dowling said. “But obviously, when they do the 1-2-2 [press], we can try and break it whenever we can break it.”
Ruffus-Milner remained aggressive, and as she drove into the lane, Gonzaga senior forward Melody Kempton was forced to commit the foul, sending Ruffus-Milner to the line where she made both of her free-throws, closing the Gonzaga lead to 9-8 in the first quarter.
The Waves tried to scratch their way back into the game after redshirt junior forward Becky Obinma scored a layup with a high-low action. The Bulldogs gained control of the game after the first quarter ended at 18-11.
Back-to-back baskets from Gonzaga junior guard Kaylynne Truong opened the Bulldogs’ lead to 25-13 with 8:05 left in the second quarter.
“I think early on, we just need to bring energy,” Nwaba said. “Like moving the ball, getting the other team tired. I think that’s the biggest thing and making sure on defense we’re just talking to each other. I think we kind of adjust as they start scoring. Energy is the biggest thing.”
With the shot-clock decreasing, Givens called for a ball-screen and snaked her way into the paint, scoring the layup. Then, on the fast break, Stedman nailed a mid-range shot on the right wing — no one from the Bulldogs stopped the ball.
The Waves cut the lead to eight when Nwaba scored a layup from the baseline after a second-chance opportunity. But, the Bulldogs would close the second quarter on a 9-5 run, extending their lead to 14 and ending the half with the score at 39-25.
“The game plan was to slow them down in transition, which I thought we did,” Dowling said. “We shaved points a little bit off by doing certain things like in transition, and then to win the rebounding battle, which we didn’t do. We knew it was going to be tough. It was close.”
At the end of the first half, the Waves shot 40% from the field and committed eight turnovers. The Bulldogs capitalized on those turnovers, gaining 11 points off unforced errors.
“Honestly, just communication with each other and making contact with other players, knowing where our outlets are if we get into trouble,” Braslis said. “I think not having everyone in practice for a while, in and out with COVID, had really affected us. I think the turnovers, that was really our fault. That wasn’t any pressure, that was just us.”
The start of the third saw a better defensive effort. The Waves allowed only two points in five minutes of play. After receiving the dribble hand-off, Stedman nailed a mid-range shot from the left baseline, closing in on the Bulldogs’ lead at nine with 5:11 left in the third.
But the Waves offense struggled mightily in the third quarter, only scoring nine points compared to the Bulldogs’ 17 points. Ruffus-Milner would score on a backdoor layup, with 2:24 in the third, but the Bulldogs would go on a 15-2 run to end the third.
The Waves started the fourth with more intensity, despite the score being 56-34. Nwaba would score on an up-and-under layup and convert the three-point play. Then, after a shot-clock violation by the Bulldogs, Nwaba would score again on a left-wing three off of a second-chance opportunity, cutting the lead to 16.
Gonzaga’s best quarter came in the second, when the Bulldogs shot 50% from the field. The Bulldogs also went 8-for-20 from long distance, compared to the 5-for-14 shooting for the Waves.
“We gotta take team shots the whole time,” Braslis said. “And we gotta be on the same page on defense. It’s pretty simple for us and after today, definitely limit turnovers, that’ll get us wins.”
The Waves continue their four-game home-stand Jan. 31 versus Saint Mary’s.
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