Three for the Road

Bill Stoklosa

On New Year’s Eve, the Colgate’s women’s basketball team traveled to New Britain, Connecticut to battle the Central Connecticut State Lady Blue Devils, looking to string together its first two-game winning streak of the year. Their plans were foiled, however, and the Raiders fell by an 83-63 score.

The Blue Devils, who came into the game 5-5 on the season, came out of the gates strong, opening up a 23-8 lead with 11:04 left in the half. The Blue Devils’ offense continued to roll throughout the half, and CCSU held a 41-26 lead going into the break.

Central Connecticut continued its onslaught in the second half by holding Colgate scoreless for the first 5:03 of the half. The Blue Devils took advantage of its defensive prowess by scoring 10 points during that stretch and building a 51-26 lead en route to its 20-point victory.

Central Connecticut held a big advantage in the turnover department, forcing 21 while committing only 12. CCSU also held the edge in field goal shooting efficiency (53.2% to Colgate’s 44.4%) and three-point field goal percentage (46.7% to Colgate’s 36.4%). Kerrianne Dugan led the way for the victorious side with 21 points. For the Raiders, sophomore guard Taylor Wejnert led the way with 20 points, but she was the only Raider to score in double digits. The George Mason transfer’s performance against Central Connecticut was her second straight 20-point game in just her third contest in a Colgate uniform.

Things worked out better for the Raiders when they traveled south to Washington D.C. for a January 2 contest against the Howard Lady Bison. Not only did the Bison sport an almost identical logo to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, but their offense was just as putrid. Of course, Colgate’s astounding defense was largely to blame for Howard’s offensive woes, and it led to an easy 57-41 victory.

Colgate got out to an early lead against the winless Bison and never looked back. The Raiders took a commanding 31-8 lead with just 3:55 remaining in the half, but Howard knocked down seven free throws to cut the deficit to 31-15 going into the locker room. Colgate’s defense was unstoppable in the first half, as Howard made only 2 of 30 field goals. The Bison were saved from total annihilation only by the fact that they went to the foul line 14 times to Colgate’s 6, nailing 11 of their shots.

In the early stages of the second half, Colgate was unable to pull away from Howard. Leading 37-21, Colgate went on a 10-2 run to essentially put the game away.

Howard would chip away a little at the lead, and by the 5:13 mark the Bison had the lead down to 49-36, but a 6-0 Colgate run gave the Raiders an insurmountable 55-36 advantage with 1:30 remaining.

The key to Colgate’s success was simple: they shot the ball better. Howard was an atrocious 17.9% for the game and just 6.7% from downtown. Colgate, on the other hand, shot a solid 47.5% from the field, and 45.5% from long range. Wejnert once again led the Raiders in scoring with 13 points. Sophomore guard Sami Kozlowski also had a solid outing with 11 points, going 4-6 from the floor and 3-4 from downtown. Krista Moser had a sensational effort as well, with 10 points to go with 8 rebounds.

Howard’s Zykia Brown was stellar in defeat, accounting for an astounding 63% of her team’s offense. She had 26 points thanks to 15-17 shooting from the free throw line. Unfortunately for Brown, she did not get any help.

Colgate finished off its non-conference schedule with a trip to Smithfield, Rhode Island to battle the Bryant Bulldogs on January 5. Bryant came into the game with a record of 5-8 and had already beaten the Raiders earlier in the season at the Fordham University Holiday Classic by a 71-59 score. Unfortunately, Colgate could not get revenge for that game, falling 63-53.

After taking a very early 2-0 lead on a jumper from first-year guard Kelly Korkowski, the Raiders found themselves trailing for the majority of the first half. However, with under five minutes to go and the Bulldogs leading 26-19, the Raiders tightened things up. With 4:10 left in the half, sophomore sensation Tayler Wejnert hit a jumper and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but Patricia Oakes pulled down the offensive rebound to give the Raiders another chance to score. Candice Green took advantage of the opportunity and laid the ball into the basket and was fouled. Green hit her foul shot, and cut the Bulldog lead to 26-24 after what amounted to a five-point possession. Kozlowski then knotted the score up at 26 with a jumper, but the Bulldogs would take a 31-28 lead going into the break.

Colgate hung around early in the second half, and Krista Moser came up with the huge offensive rebound after Oakes missed a free throw and laid the ball in to give the Raiders a 38-37 lead. But less than a minute later, Bryant’s Cara Johnson hit layup gave her team a 39-38 advantage. With 5:56 left in the game and Bryant leading 51-47, Wejnert came up with a huge three to pull the Raiders within one. However, Bryant came right back down and broke the Raiders’ back when Kelsey O’Keefe nailed a three to put the Bulldogs up 54-50. After Wejnert hit one of two foul shots, O’Keefe came up huge again by hitting another three with 4:45 on the clock to give Bryant a 57-51 advantage. The momentum had clearly swung, and Bryant clamped down on defense. A garbage-time basket from Taylor Wejnert with 15 seconds left would prove to be Colgate’s only basket the rest of the way.

Wejnert was once again very solid, leading all scorers with 17 points. After the game against Bryant, Wejnert was named Patriot League Player of the Week for her recent efforts. Sami Kozlowski was also in double digits with 14 points. Patricia Oakes had a great day on the glass with 11 boards, but she had a bad day shooting going 2-9 from the floor. The usually solid and dependable Candice Green also struggled on this night, going 2-13 from the floor while playing all 40 minutes.

In an odd decision by Head Coach Pam Bass, senior guard Gretchen Polinski played only a single minute and junior guard Katie Garman did not play at all. Neither player was listed as injured. This is the most obvious example of a trend that had been evident all year, as Coach Bass has hardly utilized the only two upperclassmen on the team. Both players’ minutes have been diminishing as the season has progressed– a very questionable choice on a team that seems to cry out for veteran experience and leadership on the floor.

While Polinski has struggled this year, the underutilization of Garman has been especially difficult to understand, as she has been one of the team’s most efficient players. She has averaged 4.6 points per game in only 14.5 minutes, and is one of the teams’ better shooters (43% from the field and 34.5% from downtown). Colgate certainly could have used some better shooting against Bryant, as the Bulldogs outshot the Raiders 44.3% to 33.9% from the field and 26.7% to 9.1% from behind the arc.

Colgate finished its non-conference schedule with a mark of 4-11. Now the important part of their schedule begins, as the Raiders kick off conference play at home against Army on Saturday, January 10 at 2 p.m.