GVSU women’s hoops opens GLIAC play undefeated

GVL / Luke Holmes - Bailey Cairnduff (34) shoots the free throw. GVSU Womens Basketball lost to Truman State 69-74 on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes – Bailey Cairnduff (34) shoots the free throw. GVSU Women’s Basketball lost to Truman State 69-74 on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.

Mason Tronsor

Statistics look pretty in the box score, but what makes and breaks games in this sport are hustle plays fans overlook. This combination of stats and hustle plays has allowed the Grand Valley State women’s basketball team to excel after starting the season 1-1.

No. 17-ranked GVSU has now won five straight games and opened conference play on a high note after sweeping its slate of home games this week, Dec. 1-3. The Lakers (6-1) handled GLIAC foes Findlay 64-43 and Ohio Dominican 81-77.

“You got to win these games at home,” said GVSU coach Mike Williams. “It’s really tough in the GLIAC with a lot of good teams. You just got to own your home court which we did and hope for the best on the road.”

The Lakers used a series of runs against the Oilers Thursday night to jump out to an early lead they would never relinquish, including a 15-2 stretch midway through the first half.

Dawson carried the load for the Lakers, contributing 21 points, six rebounds and four assists.

“We were definitely locked in on defense,” she said.

The Lakers were able to force 28 turnovers and scored 18 points off those miscues, thanks to hustle plays by Taylor Lutz, who was all over the court with three steals.

“When our defense is turning into our offense we are really tough to beat,” Lutz said. “When we can get into the passing lanes it will lead to easy buckets.”

After outscoring the Oilers 23-6 in the second quarter, the Lakers coasted to their first GLIAC victory of the season.

Saturday night (Dec. 3) against the Panthers was another story. Nothing came easy for the Lakers from start to finish. Separation was hard to come by early for either team, but luckily for the Lakers, Bailey Cairnduff kept the team afloat with a barrage of three-pointers. She finished with 19 points and four blocks.

“Some days you have good shooting days and some you have off days,” Cairnduff said. “Shooters have to bounce back and not think about the last shot even if I were to air ball three in a row. You just keep thinking the next shot is going in.”

It wasn’t until late in the second quarter and the start of the third quarter when the Lakers started to slightly separate themselves from the Panthers. Cairnduff was the stat sheet stuffer, but freshman Cassidy Boensch helped lock down the interior defense by altering shots and grabbing rebounds.

“Our defense has been a major emphasis,” Boensch said. “Our offense will flow out of our defensive stops. Coach has been hard on us about that.”

GVSU held a two-point lead at the half (34-32). The Lakers jumped out to a 12-point lead out of the halftime break (72-60), the largest of the game. However, the Panthers would not go away without a fight. They cut the lead down to two with two seconds left creating some potential game-ending drama.

The pressure did not faze a veteran Laker squad as they knocked down the free throws to seal the game.

GVSU will continue GLIAC play next week on the road against Hillsdale Thursday, Dec. 8 and Walsh Saturday, Dec. 10.