VIDEO: WU split games against MIAA foes

Rob Burkett / Videos by: Luke Warnken

This last week, the Lady Blues journey toward the end of regular season play could be described as nothing short of a rollercoaster ride.

Typically when senior guard Ebonie Williams puts up 34 points in a game, Washburn is almost guaranteed a win. However, when a team shoots 5-14 from the free throw line, the margin of victory can be slim to none. Such was the case last Wednesday against the University of Central Missouri Jennies.

The Jennies came into Lee Arena looking to make up ground in the MIAA conference standings. Having won eight of their last nine games, including four in a row on the road, UCM managed to put together a strong performance. Opening up leads as large as 13 points throughout the game, the Jennies were led by senior forward Nicole Caddell who pounded WU. Caddell played an aggressive game throughout the contest, forcing junior forward Tiara George to foul out of the game and putting senior center Cassie Lombardino, who finished the game with four fouls, to sit on the bench throughout large chunks of the game. Without a consistent post presence, Caddell was able to monopolize the action, scoring 21 points to lead the Jennies.

At the same time, Washburn refused to go quietly, with a second half that featured a desperate fight to bring the team back from a 12-point halftime deficit. Williams in particular got into a groove shooting the ball well and taking over the game offensively for Washburn midway through the second half, shooting 6-10 from the floor and 4-5 from three-point range. The game high scorer would finish the game with 34 points, including the final Washburn points of the game, putting the team up by one point with 26 seconds left to play. Caddell had the last shot in the game and managed to score with four seconds left.

Racking up 12 turnovers and a tightly called game were too much for the Lady Blues to overcome. When the buzzer sounded the Jennies got their fifth road win in a row, 69-68, snapping the 11-game win streak that Washburn had been on.

“We played against UCM about as bad as you can,” said Washburn head coach Ron Mchenry. “We can’t play like that and expect to get wins against teams like them. They are a quality team and we didn’t seem to ever get going.”

After the bad beat that the Lady Blues suffered, the team turned their attention to a team that has struggled this season. Unlike UCM, the Southwest Baptist Lady Bearcats are in ninth place in the MIAA standings.

An opening three-point shot put the Lady Bearcats up to start the game 3-0. That would be the last time SBU led in the game. Reeling off an 8-0 run, Washburn kicked up the defensive intensity, forcing 11 turnovers in the opening period while finishing the game with 16 turnovers overall.

With the game plan to establish the inside presence of Lombardino, Washburn got six points in the first half from the center who finished the game with 12 points and nine rebounds. While Lombardino and company dominated the battle in the paint on the front line, the outside game led once again by Williams went to work on the perimeter.

“That’s how we start out games,” said Lombardino. “Sometimes the shots fall and sometimes we look to kick it out. That’s just part of our game.”

Shooting 4-for-6 from three-point range, Williams put together another team leading scoring night, finishing the contest with 17 points.

While most of the usual suspects for the Lady Blues had solid games, senior forward Stevi Schultz continued to struggle from the floor, shooting 2-12 from the floor and 1-10 from three-point range. Schultz had finished the previous game against UCM shooting just 1-5 from the floor. Mchenry however didn’t mind seeing his veteran forward and one of the team leaders continue to shoot the ball despite the struggles.

“I’m never scared of Stevi shooting,” said Mchenry. “She looks good in practice and warmups. There’s nothing I can do to make her shoot better. She’ll just play through this.”

In the second half of the game the defensive pressure was to much for SBU to stand as the Lady Blues opened up a 20 point halftime lead into an insurmountable deficit, ballooning to as much as 32 points before Washburn finally finished off the Lady Bearcats 75-49.

Next on the schedule is Missouri Southern State University tonight on the road. The Lady Lions are last in the conference with a 7-16 record overall and a 3-14 mark in MIAA play. Led by junior forward Erin Rice, who averages 14.7 points per game on the season, the MSSU offense currently ranks ninth in the conference. The team leads the conference in three point attempts but has only been able to convert 28 percent from beyond the arc, placing them tenth in the conference in three point shooting percentage.

Having lost six of the last seven games, including four of their last six at home, Washburn will look to ignite a new winning streak and take the season sweep against MSSU, who the Lady Blues took down Jan. 7 at home 76-53. Tipoff is set tonight at 5:30 p.m. in Joplin, Mo.