Women’s basketball: Weak second half leads to Catawba loss
SALISBURY — Halfway through Saturday’s women’s game at Goodman Gymnasium, Catawba had unbeaten Carson-Newman scratching its head.
The Indians were dictating play with shutdown defense and more-than-enough offense to put the SAC co-leaders in an 11-point hole.
“In the first half we were everywhere,” senior guard Chloe Bully said. “We were boxing out, talking to each other and making shots. We did all the things we’re supposed to do.”
By game’s end the smiles they wore at halftime were turned upside down. The Eagles scored 51 points in the second half to leave with a 73-65 win.
“Carson-Newman executed at the end of the game — and we didn’t,” coach Angie Morton said. “We had good looks at the basket. We just missed them. Or we took bad shots. Instead of waiting for the best shot, we just took a shot.”
The loss assured Catawba (4-4, 1-3 SAC) will spend Christmas below .500 in conference play. Carson-Newman (7-0, 4-0), which averages better than 75 points per game, was held to seven first-half baskets and trailed 33-22 at the break.
“It was a rough morning for us,” freshman Jessica Simerly said after the Eagles shot just 24 percent from the field in the first half. “We had that long, rainy bus ride. Then we got here and our shots weren’t falling. It was more or less a mental thing.”
The Eagles about-face began immediately after Tatum Burstrom buried a 3-pointer from the left side to open the second half.
“It didn’t seem that big at the time,” Morton said, “but I saw some heads hanging after that shot.”
The guests proceeded to shoot 52 percent from the floor in the second half, converted all 15 of their free throw attempts and forced Catawba to play catch-up over the final 10 minutes. The Indians led 39-29 after Bully sank a pair of foul shots with 16:47 to play, but unraveled when the Eagles switched to a full-court press moments later.
“The game started moving too fast,” said redshirt freshman Terri Rogers. “We started rushing our shots as they were coming back. And on defense we didn’t recover as quickly as we should have. It all goes back to defense, and ours wasn’t the same in the second half.”
Carson-Newman took the lead for keeps when when guard Lacy Miller hit a soft set shot from the left elbow with 10:16 remaining. Two minutes later — after Simerly’s two free throws capped a 15-3 run — the Eagles led 57-49. Simerly scored 16 poins and was one rebound shy of a double-double.
“Once (the lead) got to five, I knew we had the game won,” Simerly said. “We went into our victory formation.”
Camouflaged in the loss were terrific performances by Rogers and Catawba teammate Bri Johnson. Rogers shot 5-for-7 from the field, scored 15 points and pulled down 17 rebounds. Johnson, a sophomore out of North Iredell High, made 7-of-10 field goal attempts and netted a game-high 17 points. Bully, working as a point guard, added 16 points.
“All the way around, all the things we’ve working on were working for us in the first half,” Morton said. “The pressure on defense, knocking down shots and moving the ball.
“That’s how we wanted to start this game. We just didn’t finish it.”
CARSON-NEWMAN (73): Simerly 16, Brooks 14, Cupples 13, Burstrom 11, Kyle 5, McLaughlin 5, Miller 5, Poole 4, Peterson, Franklin, Hodge.
CATAWBA (65): Johnson 17, Bully 16, Rogers 15, Greer 7, Dixon 5, S.Brown 3, Ucinski 2, Franklin, Hodges, Richardson, K.Brown.
Carson-Newman 22 51 — 73
Catawba 33 32 — 65