UWG coach Scott Groninger didn’t think his ball club handled the Lady Statesmen’s fast and physical play on the defensive side of the ball in the big-game situation, where first place in the GSC was on the line.
“I give credit to Delta. They really took us out of what we were trying to do,” Groninger said. “I don’t think we ever reacted to that very well. You know, 20 turnovers and the last three or four games we’ve been keeping the total pretty low. I just think their kids played harder on the dribble, they played harder defensively and we just didn’t do the things that you’ve got to do to win. When you shoot 29 percent at home, you’re probably not going to win.”
The Wolves (15-9, 9-7 GSC) are now two games behind league-leading DSU (16-8, 11-5) with two games remaining in the regular season, as UWG hits the road to face North Alabama on Thursday in Florence, Ala., before wrapping up the regular season on Saturday at home against Union.
In Saturday’s setback, the Wolves endured a dry spell of 10 minutes and 12 seconds between field goals during the final 6:53 of the first half until the 16:41 mark of the second half, allowing DSU to build a nine-point advantage by the half and eventually stretch its lead to as much as 14 points in the second half.
West Georgia made a pair of runs to threaten — cutting the deficit to five points midway through the second half and then to nine with 2:59 remaining — but it never could sustain a consistent enough offensive attack to get over the hump.
“Again, I give the credit to Delta State. They came out and played very determined basketball. They played hard on the ball and really took us out of what we were doing,” Groninger said. “We weren’t poised enough to make the adjustment.”
The Wolves shot 15-of-51 (29 percent) from the floor and just 14-of-25 (56 percent) from the charity stripe and had six assists to 19 turnovers, numbers Groninger attributed to DSU’s aggressive defensive play.
“They took us out of the rhythm of our offense. We had 16 [assists] last game. It’s symptomatic. And I just told them, I thought we were ready for this, but I thought the maturity level really showed [Saturday]. I thought we looked panicked,” Groninger said. “We talked about doing what we do, but we came out and we did all kinds of things that we hadn’t done for a while. That’s just part of being in a big-game setting.”
Jerlisa Taylor led West Georgia with 15 points, four assists and two steals, while Brittany Johnson also reached double figures with 10 points and nine boards.
Chadisty Hickman paced the Lady Statesmen with 15 points, six rebounds and three steals. DSU shot a perfect 14-of-14 from the line, including going 10-for-10 in the second half.
Groninger and the Wolves now turn their focus to the final week of the regular season, beginning with a tough road date at North Alabama on Thursday.
“They’re one of the top teams and we’re going to have to really play well at their place,” Groninger said. “They’re a tough team to play. Good defensively and well-coached. We’re just going to have to get back to work on Monday and get things ironed out.”