In a season marred with injuries, inconsistency and unmet expectations, the West Chester University women’s basketball hoped to find solace versus Mansfield University on Saturday. The result was a 72-65 loss. Saturday marked the Golden Rams’ first loss to the Mountaineers in Hollinger Field House since the 1983-84 campaign.
A season that began with such promise has turned into a grueling struggle each game. It’s been a year that’s probably felt like a never-ending travel for the Golden Rams, prolonged with pit stops, road rage and a few dead ends along the way.
The Mountaineers (7-9, 2-0) hung around just long enough to squeeze by the Golden Rams (5-13, 2-1) in the latter moments of the second half to secure a victory. The Golden Rams had been the Mountaineers bug-a-boo in recent years, having lost the last 11 games against their division rival prior to Saturday.
Winning streaks aside, a tough loss is what it is.
“It’s disappointing because we were there the entire game,” said Golden Rams head coach Deirdre Kane. “Mansfield is a good team and they showed that.”
The Golden Rams appeared to be in control most of the first half, but it was clear that the Mountaineers, who trailed nearly the entire first 20 minutes of play, wouldn’t go down easy.
Leading by two points at the start of the second half, the Golden Rams faced more pressure from Mountaineers defense that had already successfully shut down WCU’s inside game.
“They played in a zone and that gave us problems,” said Kane.
More like the fits.
The Golden Rams were forced to take more shots from the outside perimeter, and in the process handcuffed the team’s leading scorer, Dominique Lewis. Lewis finished with 14 points, most of which came on the result of breakaway baskets and offensive rebounding. The reigning PSAC East Player of the Week posted another double-double, as Lewis also grabbed down 10 rebounds. But those numbers didn’t come easy.
“It was frustrating,” said Lewis, regarding the Mountaineers defensive. “We have to try and find a way to get more points inside.”
Mountaineers center Jessica Ulhrich was key in preventing the Golden Rams from working the middle and finding open shots. Ulhrich posted five blocked shots and 12 total rebounds, 11 of which came on the defensive end.
While the Mountaineers made it difficult to score inside the paint, the Golden Rams did take advantage of other scoring options. Alexis Norman drained a trio of three-pointers and finished with 13 points. Elise McCloy, Catherine Andrews and Justine Pfaff also added a basket from three-point range. McCloy leads the team this season with 25 three-point buckets.
Although the Golden Rams did out-rebound the Mountaineers 44-38, more work still needs to be done if the team is hopeful of improving this year.
“We really need to focus on boxing out more and getting loose balls,” said Lewis. “We just have to keep on working at it.”
On Wednesday, the Golden Rams travel to battle Kutztown University in another PSAC East contest. As of Saturday evening, Kutztown sits atop of the PSAC East with an overall record of 10-6 and 2-0 in the division.
“Kutztown is another good team and another tough challenge,” said Kane.
The Golden Rams are back at home on Saturday to face East Stroudsburg.