Midseason Grades: GV shows promise
Lakers manage ups and downs, look for consistency in last stretch
GVL Archive / Robert Mathews
Dear Grand Valley State University students, fans, parents, guardians, Louie the Laker and to whom else it may concern:
The Lanthorn provides regular updates to you about your team’s progress by publishing weekly articles, box scores and, in this our latest edition, by sending home a report card. Once a semester, we provide you with updates on your teams’ achievements, as they adhere to our own regimented standards.
Included in this particular midterm report card is important information detailing the GVSU women’s basketball team and their performance halfway through the 2013-2014 season — on and off the court.
There is also information about how the Lady Lakers have fared in obtaining measurable objectives, with 12 games remaining to make the mark.
No standardized tests, pop quizzes or parental signatures required. Just grades, self-assessed, for and by a team still learning as it goes.
OVERALL GRADE: B
RECORD: 8-6 (6-4 GLIAC)
The Lakers have been unable to amass more than three consecutive wins this season but have also avoided accruing more than three straight losses. Currently in a three-game skid, GVSU will return home Thursday to don retro uniforms and tend to a currently unblemished record while playing in Allendale, Mich.
“We’re just maybe a little above average production on a consistent basis,” head coach Janel Burgess said. “Not trying to be easy or hard — just transparent, and our young ladies know that. I’m eager for us to continue to grind it out this season and enjoy each and every opportunity daily to get better.”
At times this season, in a 77-68 victory over visiting Findlay University for instance, the Laker offense has played at an A level. The offense has even played at an A grade for entire stretches of games, like it did during a three-game period between Jan. 2 and Jan. 9, but an A at times is not an A.
It’s a glimpse.
“Our shots don’t always fall when we need them to, but we take care of the ball, have great ball movement and can be very hard to defend with our great depth,” Burgess said. “We are very capable of playing at an A level; we just need more consistency.”
Sophomore transfer Bailey Cairnduff leads the Lakers with 12.6 points per game and has scored in double figures in 11 of 14 games this season, including a 29-point career-high outburst in a game against Walsh University.
Senior guard Dani Crandall is second on the team with 10.5 points per game but leads the Lakers with 39 assists and 43 free throws made. Junior Kat LaPrairie averages 8.1 points per game.
Freshman forward Kayla Dawson has scored in double figures in seven games this season and is fourth in scoring with a 7.7 points per game average. Classmate and guard Piper Tucker is fifth with 6.8 points per game.
“The upperclassmen know the offense like the back of their hand, but the newbies and the freshmen are starting to get the hang of it,” junior point guard and igniter of offense Meryl Cripe said. “Sometimes we get a little rushed, a little excited and we could afford to be more patient sometimes, but I think we’re on the right track.”
The Laker defense has done enough to stay in games, like it did in back-to-back games in Ohio in mid-December; GVSU held Tiffin to 52 points before limiting Old Dominican University to 55.
The Laker defense has also forced steals — 93 to their opponents’ 79, but has broken more than it has bent and has struggled with lapses, particularly during a most recent road trip to the Upper Peninsula.
“To be honest, in the sense of where we’ve been in the last four games, we’ve given up way too many points and we can’t afford to do that,” Burgess said. “We’re so streaky. When we’re on, we’re on and we can shut people down, but lately, we’ve lost our way a little bit.
“I think we’re forgetting some little things that are hurting us in the end and we’ve got to get back to our basic principles.”
When the Lakers do what they do best, they run like water. And when they’re at their best, there are few levees that can contain them.
“When we get the opportunity to get out in transition, we’re in great shape,” Burgess said. “Our defense has to embrace itself because we’re tremendous when we can get up and down the court and set the tempo, as we did against Findlay.”
BENCH: A-minus / B-plus
Cairnduff and Crandall lead GVSU with 27.6 and 26 minutes per game on average, respectively.
Although there are seven Lakers that average 15 minutes per game or more, including two freshman, Tucker and guard Taylor Lutz, who average more than 20 minutes per game, and another, Dawson, who averages 15.8.
“Our freshmen are continuing to come along, but we’re still looking for some depth in areas that we haven’t found it in, yet,” Crandall said. “We have consistency issues at times, but I think overall, they’ve done great things for us.”
The Lakers frequently rotate up to 10 players in and out and have adjusted their starting five throughout the season.
“Our depth off the bench is awesome and has been a huge advantage for us this season,” Cripe said. “It throws our opponents off guard and keeps our legs fresh, which allows us to push the pace like to do.”
FRONT COURT: C-plus
Junior Daina Grazulis and sophomore Jill Steinmetz are both listed as centers for GVSU, although sophomore power forward Grace Sanchez has also received time at the 5-spot.
Steinmetz has paced the Lakers with nine blocks, but it’s guards Cairnduff (5.1) and Crandall (5.4) who lead GVSU in rebounds per game. As a team, the Lakers have been out-rebounded 558-545.
“Paint production and having a low post presence has really been a struggle for us and we have to be able to fill that void,” Crandall said. “I think that’s one of the areas where we’re lacking and we’re waiting for something to happen.
“All of our post players have potential, but they’re still working to figure out how they can impact the team.”
GVSU has not defined its season through star play as it has in years past, but when it comes time to call upon a star effort for success, it’s generally the Laker backcourt that answers.
Crandall and Cairnduff combined lead GVSU in virtually all meaningful statistical metrics, while Cripe provides a pulse for the team in a more understated role.
“Our turnovers have been manageable and we do a good job of handling the ball, but a lot of the shots that we’re missing, that’s on us — both outside and inside the paint,” Crandall said. “We’re able to get into the paint, but then we’re also missing bunnies.
“We just have to stay tough, hungry and finish.”
CONSISTENCY: B-minus / C-plus
A key ingredient listed in most any recipe for success, consistency has been the buzzword of the season for the Lakers and an ingredient that the team has struggled to measure.
“When we’re consistent, we’re getting our wins,” Burgess said. “When we show our youthfulness, we have our losses.”
What the Lakers lack in consistency, they make up for in cohesiveness.
Despite mixing in seven new members to the squad, leaders like Crandall, Cripe and LaPrairie have gotten everyone on board and on the same page.
“In my four years, this is the best chemistry we’ve had, on and off the court,” Crandall said. “We truly enjoy playing with each other and everyday when we come to practice. Some teams dread practice, but we have fun with it even in tough situations — after losses, for example.
“We all stick together, and that’s huge, especially since we’re so young.”
The Lakers are good now and have the opportunity to finish strong in the GLIAC North, but perhaps the most exciting concept associated with this compilation is how good they can be.
The Lakers will graduate only one student athlete, Crandall, at the conclusion of this season, and as a team, they’re still putting all the pieces together.
And as much as a report card is to serve as a litmus test and assessment, it’s in equal parts a challenge. If the Lakers rise to it, expect the next report card to go straight to the fridge.
“We have the potential to have a report card of straight As,” Crandall said. “I’m going to leave my footprints here, but this team is young, has a lot of potential and is going to do big things for the program — and the upperclassmen embrace that idea.
“We’re in a little bit of a slump that we have to get out of, and we have to get back to doing the little things for us to get out of it, but if we can do that, our future can be phenomenal. What we want to accomplish can be accomplished.”