Spires’ second-effort keeps team spotless in league play while hot shooting dooms USM women
Striking from a crouched position Thursday, Torren Dowdy lunged with the speed of a snakebite.
A loose ball had been rolling to midcourt when the Saint Mary guard attacked, giving up his body in lightening-quick fashion. At the same time, two Tabor College Blue Jays dove for the same ball.
All three converged and grappled like a football scrum. Eventually, a jump ball was called and USM given possession.
“It’s just the make up of our team,” USM coach Jon Bishop said of the extra effort. “It’s the guys we bring in. They don’t really have a choice. They are going to get on the floor, hustle and play hard or they are not going to play.”
That hustle play came with three minutes left in the game and punctuated a Saint Mary performance that was defined by its extra energy. The effort paid off in the form of a 88-76 victory, the Spires eighth straight.
“Torren came off the bench, as did Skyler Hall, and they gave us huge minutes tonight,” Bishop said. “With the students not being back yet and the great environment they create here, I told the guys they were going to have to pick up the energy. I thought they did a good job of that and I thought we started well, which gave us a boost.”
The good Saint Mary start enabled the home team to build a 10-point lead heading into the halftime break.
That advantage came from a half where the squad shot 50 percent from the floor and went 12-of-15 from the free throw line.
The second 20 minutes of play saw similar action. Though USM could never run away from Tabor, it never allowed its visitors to mount a challenge thanks to the extra hustle plays Bishop eluded to earlier.
The result was a 12-point victory for Saint Mary. Chip Schneider led the team in scoring with 21 points while Jordan Wilcox added 18 and JEB Greenberg and Dowdy chipped in 10 a piece.
The Spires, 12-5 overall and 7-0 in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, will travel to Ottawa (7-10, 3-4) Saturday for a 5 p.m. contest.
“Tonight was important because we were able to create separation with someone that was right below us in the standings,” Bishop said. “We will get more of those opportunities. We can get a lot better over the next three and four games and if we do that, we will be really scary down the stretch.”
Lady Spires beat by hot shooting
Like the raindrops outside, shots were falling with ease inside Ryan Sports Center Thursday night.
Unfortunately for the Saint Mary women’s basketball team, however, it was visiting Tabor College who was filling up all the buckets.
In the opening 20 minutes of play, the Lady Blue Jays shot 65 percent from the field, including 5-of-8 from behind the 3-point line.
That hot shooting led to a 45-23 halftime deficit for USM and eventually a 72-57 loss.
“They didn’t miss many shots,” Saint Mary coach Mike Basler said. “We were trying to get to them and make tougher shots, but they just shot lights out. It was huge for them.”
From the game’s opening tip Tabor offensively invoked its will. The visitors threw in 17 of its 26 field goal attempts in the first half while Saint Mary made just eight baskets.
In the second half, Tabor came back down to earth to make only 35 percent of its field goals.
Nevertheless, the damage had been done and the Blue Jays cruised to the 15-point win.
“I wasn’t displeased with our effort or our execution,” Basler said. “We only had 13 turnovers, which was a season low in conference play for us. I liked the looks we got, we just didn’t make nearly enough to hang with them tonight.”
Jennifer Harmon was the Lady Spires leading scorer with 11 points, followed by Adelyn Ezeh’s nine and Kendra Mattox’s seven. Shelby Watson ripped down four boards.
Saint Mary, 6-12 overall and 1-6 in KCAC action, will play at Tabor at 3 p.m. Saturday.