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SMC Basketball

Belles fall to Knights on the road

| Monday, December 7, 2015

Saint Mary’s recorded its eighth loss of the season on the road against No. 11 Calvin on Saturday at Van Noord Arena.

The Belles (0-8, 0-2 MIAA) fell, 91-45, to the Knights. Their second conference game got off to a strong start, as the Belles took a 10-9 lead in the middle of the first quarter that forced a Calvin (6-1, 2-0) timeout. Strong offensive rebounding and 4-of-5 free throw shooting kept the Belles, who were down 18-11 at the end of the first in the game.

But the Knights’ full-court press defense started taking control of the game in the second quarter. The Knights caused 13 turnovers and only allowed the Belles 11 points, while putting up 28 points of their own. The half ended with Saint Mary’s down 46-22.

“I think that walking into the gym at Calvin, we knew we were going to struggle against [the Knights’] strong press,” sophomore forward Gabby Diamond said. “They average over 20 steals a game [in conference play] with that defense and, as a smaller team, it was difficult playing against that for forty straight minutes.”

Continuing its high-pressure defense and efficient scoring after halftime, Calvin kept the lead above 24 for the entirety of the last two periods, giving the Belles no chance for a comeback. 16 points in the fourth quarter confirmed Calvin’s victory and pushed its streak of scoring 80 or more points to four consecutive games.

Belles senior captain and forward Eleni Shea put in a strong effort, dropping in 18 points, 12 boards and five steals to secure her second double-double of the season. She also went 10-for-13 from the line. Diamond was the second-leading scorer with eight points, while freshman guard Erin Maloney and senior guard Maddie Kohler each chipped in six points. Overall, though, the Belles shot just below 22 percent from the floor and coughed up 30 turnovers.

“I did think that we did a good job of pushing the ball to the basket to draw the foul,” Diamond said.“Eleni really took advantage of this and went to the foul line quite a few times, which gave us some time to regroup and do our best to lessen the score gap with a stopped clock.

“I think that moving forward it is obvious that our team struggles with getting into foul trouble, and I attribute this a lot to our tendency to go directly for the foul when someone drives the ball to the hoop. We have a good amount of height and speed this year, and I don’t think we recognize this when defending someone who is taking it to the basket and sending them to the line for a shot they most likely would not have made.”

On the other side, Calvin had three players in double figures — sophomore guard Ali Spayde hit four 3-pointers en route to 18 points while junior guards Anna Timmer and Lauren Goldthorpe each chipped in 12. Freshman point guard Rachel Warners added six points and a career-high 11 rebounds off the bench.

With two conference games under their belt, the Belles now prepare to host conference foe Alma on Wednesday.

“I think that we view [Alma] as a very beatable team, and with some changes to our defense, specifically with moving our feet and keeping our hands up on the drive, I think that we will be in much better shape as we host our first conference game at home,” Diamond said.

“We have faced a lot of challenges this season with injuries, but I think that the size of our team is actually used to the greatest advantage and our chemistry as a team will only serve us more on the court Wednesday,” she said.

The Belles look to get their first win when they return home for a conference game against Alma on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

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About R.J. Stempak

R.J. Stempak is a sophomore computer science major who enjoys basketball.

Contact R.J.