Just what the basketball doctor ordered.
The University of Saint Mary women's basketball team returned to the Ryan Center Wednesday night hoping to atone for a poor outing two weeks earlier and also build off momentum earned over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Led by Tiani White's 16 points, Candy De Los Reyes' 15 points and Sienna Brown's 10 points, the Spire women rallied for a 65-62 come-from-behind win over a top-notch Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) Kansas Wesleyan squad.
“We felt good about the win, anytime you can beat a team that’s 3-0 in the league and getting rankings in the national polls, we feel good about it,” USM head coach Bruce Erickson said. “We handled their runs pretty well and we felt good about that. I felt that defensively we challenged their shots, but we had a lot of breakdowns on some of the drives and we can get that corrected.”
The Spire women (5-4, 2-2) came out looking like a win over NCAA D2 Northwest Missouri over the break had boosted their rocket fuel by a billion gallons as they came out rolling to a 22-15 lead after the first quarter came to an end.
“We were doing pretty good in the beginning, but then we got in a little bit of foul trouble and things got a little sloppy,” De Los Reyes said. “Second half we came back and kind of pushed it and we played collectively as a team.
“We will learn from this game and move on to Saturday. This was a good game to come back from after losing at Friends at home.”
However, that all went poof as the Coyotes used a slow-down pace and inside-out flair to tie the game at 33 heading into the break.
KWU led 51-48 after three quarters as the Spires couldn't control the defensive boards and allowed a flood of layups to make the Coyotes' barely breathe hard to get points on the board.
But as it turns out, that was by design and the home team will take that lesser of two evils.
“We didn’t rotate down, but against Kansas Wesleyan, we gave up points, but it was only two points and they love to shoot the three,” Erickson said. “I wasn’t going to get beat at the 3-point line. We should have had rotations and had some people take charges.”
But then the Spires seemed to figure things out when it mattered, going on a 15-6 run through a majority of the final quarter, capped by a De Los Reyes triple with just under 90 seconds to play.
Oh wait, the Coyotes weren't done and a 5-0 run made it 63-62 with 37.2 seconds to go.
Deciding to defend out the next USM possession, KWU saw the choice fail as De Los Reyes hit a runner with 7.1 seconds remaining to bump Saint Mary up to 65-62.
A strong defensive stand by the Spire women kept the Coyotes from A tying score and the USM squad had righted its ship at home.
A win is a win even when it’s not so pretty.
Admittedly, the USM men’s basketball team may have beaten Kansas Wesleyan, 70-64 to complete a Spires’ sweep of the Coyotes, but it came in anything but a pleasing-to-the-eye fashion.
Yet, they still found the way to win the game in such fashion and that too says a lot about the Spires (5-5, 3-1).
“We are a pretty bad starting team - we don’t start well first half or second half,” USM head coach Troy Brown said. “We won that game shooting 29 percent (in the second half). We missed a lot of easy bunnies and we didn’t guard very well going to the basket. Overall, I don’t think played very well.”
Then how did they win?
“That’s a great question,” Brown said. “We told the guys starting the second half, we needed more post touches. We started driving a little bit, got some calls, shot some free throws.”
Demetrius Cady (13 points), Edvonte Copeland (11 points) and Brett Marsh (10 points) led the way for the Spires who shot a subpar 33.9 percent from the field but managed to gut out a win.
“I am happy with 3-1, but if we play Saturday like we did tonight, we will get beat,” Brown said.
It was a methodical first half for the most part and the Coyotes held a 21-20 lead midway through the first half before a barrage of sweet shots, strong defense and efficient sharing of the basketball propelled the home team to a 31-22 edge before halftime.
They held on to a 36-27 lead as the two teams took seats in the locker rooms.
The second half truly was a seesaw affair as both teams went on its share of runs, but the key one came after USM trailed 55-54 and responded with a 10-3 spurt to lead by six with two minutes left.
They would hold for the win behind some key free throws and some key defensive stops.