Less than two weeks ago, the McGill women’s basketball team was riding high after upsetting sixth-ranked Laval on their home floor. Fast forward to Friday night, and the post-game atmosphere at Love Competition Hall was anything but celebratory. The Martlets failed to reach double figures in scoring in three out of four quarters, and connected on an abysmal 23 per cent of their field goal attempts as they were picked apart by the visiting Rouge et Or, 55-37.
“There aren’t a lot of positives to take [from the game],” said Head Coach Ryan Thorne. “We didn’t do much well. I think the lesson to be learned is that if you don’t play well, teams will execute and make us pay for it.”
Both squads seemed incapable of generating any offensive rhythm early in the game; with two minutes left in the opening period the score remained deadlocked at an astoundingly low 4-8. With no player standing above six feet tall in McGill’s starting lineup, the Martlets struggled to establish inside positioning and assert themselves on the glass, losing the rebounding battle 42-31. Despite poor play during the first half, though, the Martlets found themselves trailing by just three points at intermission.
“We weren’t surprised to be down three,” said Thorne. “I think we can beat that team; we beat them already. [In the second half] we stopped executing and doing the little things. We got down early in the first quarter because we [had] a gameplan and we didn’t follow through.”
Weak screens, slow ball movement, and forced threes certainly weren’t part of McGill’s plan, yet that was all Thorne saw from his squad on Friday night. The Martlets’ inability to take Laval off the dribble and penetrate the lane resulted in far too many contested perimeter shots, and on a night when McGill connected on just five out of 21 long-range attempts, offensive stagnancy proved deadly. Senior guard Nathifa Weekes was also critical of her team’s defensive effort in the match.
“We had too many fouls in the first half,” she said. “Turnovers, and just poor defence all in all. If we start playing [defence] and working together, we’ll win.”
In most cases, holding a top-10 team to 55 points and 33 per cent shooting, and forcing 24 turnovers would all but ensure a victory. However, the Martlets coughed the ball up 20 times themselves, and were limited to just six free throw attempts – a strong indication of the team’s lack of activity close to the basket.
“We know [Laval’s] big,” said Thorne. “We’re not surprised by that. [But] if we don’t execute – if we’re not setting good screens to get people open – we’re not going to get open looks. They’re not going to give us a game, they’re going to fight. All the credit to [Laval], they played really well and fought hard, but we’ve got to execute as well.”
Freshman guard Francoise Charest was the only Martlet player in double figures with 11 points. Sophomore forward Anneth Him-Lazerenko – the team’s best offensive player in the post – was limited to just nine points on 4-11 shooting. With eight first-year players on the roster, the Martlets are unquestionably young, but Thorne was reluctant to use his team’s youth as an excuse for their sub-par performance.
“Yeah, our team’s young,” said Thorne. “But we have to stop saying that we’re young and start executing. We’re trying to play too fast at times and trying to make plays before we recognize what the open situation is. But we’ve [also] got four veterans who I think are solid players.”
Veterans and rookies alike stepped up in a major way on Sunday evening, as the Martlets rebounded with a 75-59 demolition of visting UQAM. Freshman guard Marie-Eve Martin scored 16 points and the Martlets held the Citadins to just three points in the second quarter. The win brought McGill to 3-6 in conference play, and the Martlets will look to improve on that mark when they travel to Lennoxville on January 29 to take on the Bishop’s Gaiters.