It took some time for the Seattle University women’s basketball team’s motor to warm up, but once it did, a stout defense and balanced scoring led to a victory over the University of Denver Pioneers.
Tip started later than usual; a moment of silence was held for late Cal-State Fullerton Assistant Coach Monica Quan and her fiancé Keith Lawrence, who were fatally shot inside a parked car at their condominium complex on Feb. 3.
The team also sent a care package to the team, showing support for them in their time of grieving.
“It’s very, very tragic,” said Head Coach Joan Bonvicini. “Our hearts are with their program and their families and we are definitely thinking of them… I think anytime something is tough, because I’ve gone through that too, the little things of reading a card with the team, with the staff, because they’re going through things they’ve never even imagined.”
Denver took command initially, building an eight-point lead with 12:58 to go in the first half. The Redhawks slowly found their feet though, coping with the intensity of the Pioneers by bringing pressure of their own.
“From being on the road and losing a few games, I think we needed to gain back our confidence,” Bonvicini said. “I think we didn’t start the game well strong. They started by hitting some threes. We were down eight but I really thought we showed a lot of poise in that stretch.”
With 5:37 to play in the first half, the Redhawks took their first lead. They wouldn’t trail for the rest of the game. Forward Catherine Perez gave the Redhawks the lead on a fast-break lay-up after a Denver turnover.
Just over a minute and a half later, the lead had grown to seven after a three-pointer by forward Ashley Ward and a lay-up-and-one from guard Sylvia Shephard. Denver fought back to get the game to four at halftime.
The momentum taken by Seattle in the first half continued into the second, as the Redhawks stretched a four point lead to 14 with 13:23 to play in the game. Denver held pace at 14 for a while through free throws, but the Redhawks defense didn’t allow any easy shots, and with 7:40 remaining in the game, the Pioneers had only made one basket in the second half, shooting a measly six percent from the field.
As for the difference maker in the game, Bonvicini felt it was down to road games versus home games.
“I think a lot of things [made the difference]. Number one coming at home, having good quality practices, and then the thing that’s different, I’ve been in other conferences, in the WAC it’s tough travel.”
Another Seattle run saw the lead stretch to 23, before a late run from Denver cut the lead to a respectable 10 points with 25 seconds to play.
The win got Seattle U back on track in the WAC after dropping two games in a tough road swing against San Jose State and Utah State before returning home to face Denver.
“Having two weeks on the road is kind of hard, especially with school,” said Shephard. “We’re just tired, and we have two days of class and then we have to get back on the road. It just wears on our bodies.”
Seattle U won the game on the defensive end, holding Denver to 32.8 percent shooting from the field, while shooting 47.2 percent themselves. Shephard led the way with 15 points and six rebounds, while three other Redhawks, point guard Daidra Brown and forwards Ashley Ward and Kacie Sowell scored in double figures for the Hawks. Eight of the nine Redhawks who saw minutes put points on the board.
Shephard also kicked in four assists and two steals. The team racked up 10 steals by the end of the night, contributing to the 16 turnovers.
Turnovers weren’t the only thing that held Denver back. The Pioneers didn’t fare any better from behind the arc, only shooting 18.2 percent for the game on 4-22 shooting.
The win marked the fifth straight home win for the Hawks, a tally that was extended on Saturday as the Redhawks stretched that streak to six games in a 78-62 win over New Mexico State. The next action for the women will be Thursday, Feb. 14, at Louisiana Tech before facing UT Arlington again on Saturday, Feb. 16.
Kevin may be reached at [email protected]