In Wednesday night’s battle on the hilltop, the Dons suffered their worst home loss of the season behind a hot shooting night by CSU Bakersfield.
Coming into this game, coach Azzi’s team had not lost by any more than three points at home, but Bakersfield put that statistic to rest by shooting 47% from the field, and 50% from three-point range. The Dons started off with a lot of energy, with four fast-break points off turnovers, and converting on their first two shots from the field. They led 8-2 before Bakersfield called a timeout to stop the bleeding. Coming out of the timeout, the game went downhill for the Dons defensively, and they never recovered as Bakersfield began putting on a clinic from beyond the arc. By the end of the first half, both teams were above 50% from the field, but Bakersfield was 6-12 from three, the Dons only 1-4. Surprisingly, the Road Runners went into the locker room with just a ten point lead, the same halftime deficit the Dons faced in last Friday’s win over UNLV.
The Dons once again started the second half well, with a 6-0 run cutting the deficit to four, but the run stopped there. Taj Winston and Zhane Dikes left their mark with a combined 30 points, but freshman stand-out Rachel Howard was never able to get going, ending in a cold shooting night, just 2-7 from the field and more surprisingly 0-4 from beyond the arc.
“Everyone has an off game, but the most important thing is to find ways to contribute to your team, such as defense, boxing out, offensive rebounds, just effort,” Howard said.
Bakersfield continued to shoot 50% from three (11-22), the Dons just 1-10 (0-6 in second half) as Bakersfield grinded out the remaining four minutes to take the 70-85 win. The Dons got just 15 points from their bench, compared to Bakersfield’s 42. Rebounding, and turnovers were identical for both teams, the difference in this game was clearly three-point shooting.
The Dons don’t have much to worry about this early, but they must clean up their defense if they want to get back on track. On Saturday, they will face their toughest test of the season when they hit the road to take on Boise State, who’s currently unbeaten at home (4-0). Winston spoke briefly about being mentally prepared for this challenge.
“We need to come ready for practice tomorrow, we need to fix our attitudes, we need to have effort, energy, and work on the necessary things to win in Boise. This game was no excuse, we didn’t come out ready to play, and we need to be ready for Saturday,” she said.
The Dons defeated Boise State 61-75 on the hilltop last year, we’ll see if coach Azzi’s team can win two straight against the Broncos, and bounce back from their worst home loss of the season.