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SMC BASKETBALL: Belles must shoot their way up in conference

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Belles ran out of gas in overtime Saturday against Alma, but sophomore guard Bridget Lipke expressed optimism in trying to regain fourth place in the MIAA tonight against Kalamazoo College.

“We have a really good chance to work our way up right now in the middle of our conference schedule,” Lipke said.

The Belles lost 77-71 in a hard-fought contest, but with a win at home, Saint Mary’s would improve to 3-5 on the season against league opponents. That would equate to more conference wins in the first half of this season than the entire 2003-04 season.

The improvement has come in large part thanks to team unity.

“We all play really well as a team – unselfish and passing,” Lipke said. “Everyone knows each other and isn’t afraid to make the pass.”

The Belles, though, will need more than just team unity to climb back up to fourth in the MIAA. Saint Mary’s must also improve its shooting. The team has struggled at times this year, and is hitting less than 40 percent of its shots from the floor on the season as a whole.

One bright spot that looms well for Saint Mary’s is the performance of guard Alison Kessler. Beginning the season on the bench, she has become the MIAA’s premier free-throw shooter, connecting over 88 percent of her shots from the charity stripe. Lipke is second in the league at 86 percent.

That accuracy from the line will be pivotal against the Hornets, as Kalamazoo center Ashley Riley enters the game leading the league in blocked shots but is also prone to foul trouble. With Kalamazoo’s defense keeping opponents to just 37 percent shooting on the year, the Belles will be hard-pressed to capitalize on every opportunity.

One of the key match-ups of the night will be in the paint as senior standouts Emily Creachbaum of Saint Mary’s and Riley battle in the interior. Both are in the league’s top 10 for points and rebounds.

Tip-off is 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Angela Athletic Center.