While many students were traveling to their homes across the country for Thanksgiving, the women’s basketball team traveled to LaCrosse, Wisconsin for the annual Holiday Inn Express Thanksgiving Classic. The Maroons fell in the championship game to hosts UW-La Crosse—ranked 22nd in the country—by a score of 62–56. Their loss came just a day after defeating Luther 85–55 in the semifinals tournament.
The game against Luther was the best of the young season for the Maroons. A 10–0 run in the first half gave the Maroons the early commanding lead. Luther finally cut the lead down to 12 with 12:33 remaining after being down by as much as 20, but the Maroons quickly reasserted control over the game with a stifling defense. Luther did not score for an entire five-minute stretch in the second half, during which the Maroons were able to put up 18 points, placing the game out of reach.
The Maroons shot close to 53 percent from beyond the three-point line on 10–19 shooting and made 56 percent of their shots for the game.
According to coach Aaron Roussell, the offensive efficiency came from putting pressure on the Luther defense. “We forced their defense into a lot of scramble situations which helped us get a lot of open looks. We are a good shooting team, but when we are able to get wide open looks we turn into a great shooting team.”
The Maroons dominated inside play as third-years Taylor Simpson and Morgan Herrick shot a combined 13–16 from the field, scoring 30 points and grabbing eight boards.
“Taylor and Morgan had a great matchup inside that they took advantage of, [and that] helped us get open looks from the perimeter,” said coach Roussell.
The championship game against host La Crosse was a different story. The Maroons were four for 17 from behind the arc against a stingy La Crosse defense. The women struggled from the field as well, shooting only 37 percent for the game.
However, the Maroons’ solid defense helped keep the game close and competitive, with the lead changing 10 times in the first half alone. “We played good defense throughout that game, but we really struggled scoring,” said Simpson.
The critical point of the game came with 48 seconds left, when La Crosse’s Taylor Larson drained a three-pointer. The Maroons failed to respond on the other end of the court, and were forced to foul. Free throws by Larson clinched the game for La Crosse. The Maroons failed to score in the final two minutes and twenty-three seconds.
“[University of Wisconsin La Crosse] is a very good defensive squad, but we found some holes that we just couldn’t take advantage of in the last few possessions,” said coach Roussell. “I think in those last couple minutes especially, we made some mental mistakes, and paid for it,” said Simpson.
La Crosse’s ranking didn’t intimidate the unranked Maroons. Said coach Roussell, “We expected to win that game and we’re disappointed we didn’t.”
However, according to third-year Bryanne Halfhill, the Maroons’ leading scorer for the day, it was a valuable early-season experience to lose a tight game against a tough team.
“We’ve learned a lot from this game and we’re going to come back a better team because of it,” said Halfhill. “We’re lucky it’s still early and this loss stings, but we will make up for it the rest of the season.”
The Maroons will have a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow at home against Wheaton College, another unranked opponent. The game tips off tomorrow night at 6 p.m.