GVSU endures the road
Laker women drop second, third straight away games
At the conclusion of the season, there will be a momentary silence from dribbled basketballs and shoe scuffles that will separate a new season from the old. Banners will be raised, and there will be one team in the ranks of NCAA Division II women’s basketball that will be able to rightfully claim itself a champion.
It won’t necessarily be the team that scored the most points, or even the team that won the most games. It will be the team that endured. Through a four-game road stint that traversed the entire polar range of the GLIAC North conference, that’s exactly what the Grand Valley State University basketball team did.
“It was long, but we endured,” head coach Janel Burgess said upon arriving back in Allendale from a 10-hour bus ride at 3 a.m. Sunday. “Our chemistry and work ethic have been really strong, even though we have three losses here in a row, and we won’t let a skid derail us as a team.”
On Thursday, the Lakers dropped an 81-66 decision to Northern Michigan University, and on Saturday, GVSU concluded a tour of the Upper Peninsla with a 76-54 loss to Michigan Technological University.
It was the Lakers’ third consecutive road loss in the GLIAC in as many chances.
“After four road trips in a row, we have to understand that when you are on the road, you must start well and always rely on your defense,” Burgess said. “The offense will come and go on the road and errors will always be quickly multiplied.”
On Thursday, the Lakers managed to outscore the Wildcats 38-31 in the second stanza but were stifled by a sluggish start that put them behind what proved to be an insurmountable 50-28 deficit at half.
Freshman forward Kayla Dawson scored a career-high 15 points, junior point guard Meryl Cripe contributed nine points, which matched her season-high, and sophomore guard Bailey Cairnduff recorded her 10th consecutive double-digit scoring performance with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with six rebounds.
The combined efforts were not enough to overcome or contain a trio of Wildcat scorers that each netted an upwards of 18 points. NMU shot a lights-out 57.7 percent from beyond the arc, and drained 15 3-pointers while notching a 27-of-50 mark from the field.
“The Northern game wasn’t one of our better games,” GVSU senior guard Dani Crandall said. “We didn’t do the things that we needed to do and their shooting percentage was pretty unbelievable.”
The Lakers returned to the court in Houghton, Mich. on Saturday afternoon, but again struggled to recapture the hot shooting that carried the team through the holiday.
GVSU did convert 5-of-12 shots from 3-point range (41.7 percent), but shot only 30.8 percent from the field as a team in the loss.
Crandall led the Lakers with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting to accompany five rebounds and an assist. Freshman guard Taylor Lutz played 30 minutes and scored a career-high 15 points, eight of which came at the free-throw line, and Cairnduff pulled down a team-high seven rebounds. Junior forward Kat LaPrairie came away with three steals.
“We challenged our kids after the game against Northern Michigan and we started off against Michigan Tech much better defensively and offensively,” Burgess said. “We’re still striving for consistency. We have a lot of young ladies that are contributing. We just haven’t all done it together, yet.”
After falling behind 9-2 in the opening four minutes of action, the Lakers strung together a 12-4 run behind Crandall, who netted seven points during the stretch, to take their first lead of the afternoon.
GVSU then built a five-point lead, its largest of the day, but the Huskies quickly retorted with a 23-8 run to close that half from which the Lakers were unable to recover from.
“The road is always difficult,” Cripe said. “You’re away from home, there are other things around you and being in a different gym is tough. You already have a few strikes against you going in, but it’s a great learning experience.
“You learn that you have to fight through adversity. Nothing’s going to be handed to you and you’ve got to fight and earn every point that you get. We’ll grow from this.”
GVSU will return home Thursday to face off against Lake Superior State, and will unveil retro jerseys during a ‘Throwback Thursday’ promotion. It will be the Lakers’ first game at the Fieldhouse Arena since it beat Findlay University on Jan. 4.
“We’ll look forward to getting back to doing what we do, especially when it comes to the little things,” Cripe said. “It’s a long season — a marathon, not a sprint.
“There are a few things for us to grind out and fix , but we’re sitting in a good spot heading into the core of the GLIAC North season, where anybody can beat anybody on any given night in this conference. Truth is that all the teams we’ll see are teams that we can beat. We just have to stick to us, and there’ll be a lot of good things ahead.”
Starting with a good night sleep in a warm bed — at home.
“Last week we were down about as far south as we’ll travel for conference play,” Crandall said. “We just traveled about as far north as you can go. It’s been tough on the road and we’re really excited to be home on Thursday. Sleeping in your own bed can make a big difference and it’ll be good for us.”