Sports / The Prairie Fire / January 14, 2009

Offensive swoon continues as women drop two

Knox women’s basketball is in dire straits after Tuesday night’s loss to Monmouth College, its second trouncing in four days. Saturday’s “Welcome back students” game became a rout, as the Lake Forest Foresters came in firing on all cylinders, just as the offensive attack of the Prairie Fire was entering a crippling slump.

“We were pathetic,” was all head coach Emily Cline could say of the 108-43 loss to the Foresters. It was the team’s worst loss in more than five years, rivaled only in their 2004 loss 97-34 to Cardinal-Stritch College.

Knox had no answer for the Forester’s inside-outside attack and Lake Forest was able to have five players in double digits, including Lisa Nassin, who was a perfect 9-for-9 from the field to collect 21 points in only 16 minutes. The Foresters were 8-for-12 from beyond the three-point arc while shooting 61 percent overall for the game. Knox, meanwhile, was led by junior Kate Moon with 12 points. Freshman Lynn Mueller contributed ten points and Ali Hidden pulled down six rebounds and nabbed eight points.

The game was out of hand practically from the tip-off, and Lake Forest pulled out to a 22-11 lead with ten minutes left in the first half before they really turned it on, finishing with 47 points for the half. Just when one would think they might back off, they went for the jugular and poured on the points, netting 61 in the second half, while Knox could only muster 25 to answer. Five minutes into the second half, the outcome was a forgone conclusion, as the Foresters led by 40 on their way to improving to 4-6 on the season and showed no signs of letting up. All the ladies of Knox could do was tough it out, which they did with poise and aplomb, and get ready for the next game where they could hope to exorcise their demons against their bitter rivals, the Fighting Scots of Monmouth College.

After a drubbing like the one the girls received at the hands of the Foresters, they were more than ready for their bi-annual face off against Monmouth College. It was the two hundredth meeting of Knox and Monmouth on the hardwood, and they were hungry for a win. Hunger alone, though, cannot win a game. It was another even match-up on paper, as the Scots came in with a record of 5-5, and 1-3 in Midwest Conference (MWC) play, while the Fire stood at 3-7 overall, and 1-3 in the MWC. A win for either team would act as a galvanizer, preparing the teams for a charge down the stretch and maybe a tournament berth.

From the outset, the hustle of the ladies in red was impressive, and the Fire seemed confused at times, unsure and harried throughout the first half. Still, they were able to keep it competitive, though towards the end of the first half, the Scots pulled away and held a lead of 32-18 going into halftime. The name of the game was turnovers and court vision; that is to say, the Fire recorded 27 turnovers during the game, a number that makes a game practically unable to win. Knox’s passing was the opposite of crisp, putting the ball in the wrong places and missing plainly open and cutting teammates on countless occasions. The offense could not get out of its own way.

Moon went 1-for-9 in the game, junior Erin Navolio, one of the scorers on the team, continued her offensive struggles, going 1-for-5, and freshman Steph Nunez was 1-for-6 from the field. The only players to shoot near a normal percentage, sophomore Amanda Sicoli who was 3-for-4 and 2-for-2 from behind the arc and Krystyna Williams, who went 5-for-8 from the field.

All this translated into a much rougher second half as the Fire were snuffed and outscored 39-21 to bring the final score to 71-39. The main culprit was doubtless that glaucomic court vision, as the Fire’s backcourt struggles continued. Moon was the assists leader with only three, whereas Monmouth’s Melissa Gorski recorded seven assists. The Scots inside attack was another murderer on the court, as Tanesha Hughes recorded a double-double, channeling Tim Duncan to net 20 points and 11 rebounds. Still, Knox was able to put up some resistance, which Cline noticed and acknowledged.

“Our defense played with more intensity tonight,” she said. “We’re just not executing (on offense). We’ve got to find ourselves, get better.” Commenting on the dominant performance by Monmouth’s Hughes, “Our post defense is not where it should be. We need to get better inside.”

One majorly sour note occurred with about six minutes left in the game, as freshman Abby Owens came down from going for a rebound wrong and hit the floor hard, suffering an apparent knee injury. Though Cline did not know the problem, Owens was on crutches when she left the gym and is doubtful for tomorrow’s game against St. Norbert.

Two punishing losses and injuries tend to not bode well for a season, but the resilience of a team is the true test of its character and if the Fire can rise up from this and strike the Green Knights down tomorrow night, the plunge the team is taking could be swiftly reversed.

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