GVSU women’s hoops upset by Hillsdale, escapes Walsh in overtime

GVL / Emily Frye 
Piper Tucker agaisnt Rochester College on Friday Nov. 18, 2016

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Piper Tucker agaisnt Rochester College on Friday Nov. 18, 2016

Josh Peick

Entering a two-game weekend tilt against two GLIAC opponents, the Grand Valley State women’s basketball team was riding a five-game win streak. The No. 16 Lakers exited the weekend with a split after being upset by Hillsdale 54-47 Thursday, Dec. 8 and escaping with a 59-51 overtime win over Walsh Saturday, Dec. 10.

In the first game, the Lakers (7-2) found themselves in a defensive battle with the Chargers. After the first half, GVSU led Hillsdale 23-19.

“We were executing our plays and what we had (wanted to do), but weren’t hitting (any shots),” said GVSU’s Kayla Dawson.

Where scoring was hard to come by, Dawson provided the offense with a spark. Dawson scored 10 points in the first half on her way to a game-high 18 points.

The Chargers cut the lead to three points by the end of the third quarter. Then in the final quarter, the Hillsdale offense started to hit shots, outscoring the Lakers 21-11 in the final 10 minutes of the game.

For the first time all season, the Lakers did not reach the 50-point threshold, scoring only 47. A mixture of shots not falling and passivity on the offensive end of the ball resulted in the low-scoring game.

“We have to hunt some shots,” said GVSU coach Mike Williams. “Right now, that’s not what we’re doing. We are catching to catch instead of catching to shoot.”

In the second game against Walsh, the Lakers’ offensive woes continued. GVSU scored only seven points in the first quarter and finished with 20 points at halftime.

While the offense struggled, the GVSU defense kept the Lakers in the game, holding the Cavaliers to only 21 points in the first half. A key cog in the defense was Piper Tucker, who finished the game with 11 rebounds and five steals to go along with 11 points.

“(Tucker) battled,” Williams said. “Defensively what she did was unbelievable. She made some big plays around the basket.”

For the second time in the game, the Lakers scored in the single-digits in a quarter, scoring only seven points in the third. The defense held Walsh to 11 points in the frame, keeping the Lakers within striking distance.

“We just had that fight in us,” said senior guard Janae Langs. “With the energy on the bench and on the court, there was no doubt that we were going to grind it out and get the (win) tonight.”

The offense finally awoke in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 points and tying the game at 45 as regulation time expired. In the overtime period the offense kept rolling, outscoring the Cavaliers 14-6.

“We were hunting those shots,” Langs said. “Early on in the game we were being a little passive and not getting into the paint. We just had an attack mentality in the fourth quarter.”

With less than a minute left on the clock and the Lakers up three, Langs attempted a 3-point shot that clanged off the back of the rim. The shot looked to have missed, but the ball flew straight up into the air, almost reaching the shot clock above the backboard, and dropped straight down into the net.

“I felt like it was a little long, which it was, but it had the right bounce off the back of the rim where it bounced straight up and come back down,” Langs said.

The 3-pointer sealed the game for GVSU, which improved to 3-1 in GLIAC games. Langs finished with a team-high 12 points and dished out three assists.

Although the Lakers escaped with a win, the offense will need to be more aggressive for the team to have continued success, especially against a tough slate of upcoming GLIAC opponents on the schedule.

“We just need to stay confident in ourselves, have faith in each other and really just have fun when we’re out there,” Dawson said. “That’s when we play our best, when we just have fun and smile and enjoy the grind.”

GVSU will host Tiffin Saturday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m., followed by a date with undefeated Ashland Monday, Dec. 19 at 5 p.m.