No. 18 Wayne State spoils upset bid for GVSU
Sophomore Bailey Cairnduff playing against Wayne State University on Saturday. GVL / Hannah Mico.
When mixing a pitcher of Kool-Aid sans any measuring instruments, “close” can get you a couple of refreshing glasses.
After rolling out of bed past the alarm and into class past the bell, “close” can save you an absent mark and a dirty glance.
In horseshoes and hand grenades, it turns out that “close” can be downright effective. Sometimes “close” can cut it. But not in basketball.
The Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team was close in its last two games — a 91-79 loss at Saginaw Valley State University on Thursday and a 78-76 defeat against Wayne State University on Saturday in Allendale — but didn’t cut it on the scoreboard or in the standings.
The lady Lakers have not only lost six of their last seven games but also had their nine-game home winning streak snapped.
“It’s just us,” head coach Janel Burgess said. “We’re fighting consistency, fighting through those little slumps of offensive woes that we have to where we can fight back and find a victory down the stretch. We’re very, very, very, very close.”
Like when GVSU shot 57.6 percent from the field in the second half of Thursday’s rivalry matchup and nearly completed a comeback against SVSU (9-7, 7-6 GLIAC) after shooting just 37.5 percent in the first half.
“When it comes to consistency, we just have to keep reminding ourselves that nothing is going to be handed to us,” senior guard Meryl Cripe said. “We have to be ready to play every game and be consistent in our effort in what we do so that we’re beating teams we should be beating and not losing to teams we shouldn’t be losing to.
“It’s a must to be successful when you should be.”
SVSU led 12-9 at the 11:40 mark of the first half but embarked on a 22-5 run to take control of the game. The Cardinals made 8-of-9 field goals — four of which from 3-point range — during the six minute span and led 47-35 at halftime.
They shot 61.5 percent from the field in the opening stanza.
GVSU returned from the locker room and responded with a 9-0 run of its own during a two-minute span. A jumper from senior guard Dani Crandall started the chain and made the score 67-58; freshman guard Taylor Lutz sunk 3-pointer 30-seconds later; sophomore center Jill Steinmetz extended the run with a layup; then freshman forward Kayla Dawson made it a two-point game with 7:31 left on the clock.
The Lakers took a 73-72 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the game, but it wouldn’t last.
The Cardinals put together a 14-4 run over the next three minutes to close the cover on any comeback attempt the Lakers might have drummed up.
Kat LaPrairie scored 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting and connected on four 3-pointers to lead the Laker charge, while Crandall contributed 18 points and five rebounds in the loss. Lutz, who made her second consecutive start, finished with 13 points.
“I’m proud of our effort, our ability to control what we could control and that we played fairly consistent — which I’ve been challenging us to do,” Burgess said. “We just didn’t do quite enough to win.”
Like on Saturday afternoon, when the Lakers returned home, where they had outscored opponents by an average of 11.6 points per game, to commence a four-game homestand and defend a 5-0 home record against the No. 18 team in the nation, WSU (16-2, 13-1 GLIAC), and GLIAC leading scorer Shareta Brown.
The Lakers led 33-30 at halftime, although it took several lead changes to get there.
WSU began the game on a 9-2 run. GVSU then scored 12 unanswered points and extended the run into an 18-11 advantage — its largest of the afternoon.
Every time GVSU stretched the lead, WSU would reel it back in. The game was tied on three different occasions before the first half came to a close and a total of six times five minutes into the second.
“These last two games were all about knowing personnel and I thought we did a nice job of playing to the game plan,” Burgess said. “Against Wayne, we had about a 90-second lapse where we let things get a little hairy and dropped some assignments, but we bounced back and had every opportunity down the stretch to pull out a victory.”
The Lakers were on the doorstep with 15 seconds left as Crandall knocked down a pair of clutch free throws to make it 76-76, but Brown had a chance to make the game-winning shot from the left block seven seconds later, and she did.
Dawson fired from the wing for the tie with one second left, but the shot came up just short — and so did the Lakers.
But no cigar.
“The possession we can look back on is when we gave up two offensive rebounds with just under a minute to play,” Burgess said. “If we secure one of those, perhaps it’s a little different dynamic for the finish.”
Crandall scored a career-high 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting, tallied 10 rebounds and recorded three assists in the game. It was her second 20-point game of the season and her second double-double in four games.
Four other Lakers joined Crandall in double-figures. Steinmetz poured in 14 points, while LaPrairie, Dawson and Lutz tallied 10 points apiece, but it wasn’t enough. Just close.
“Kayla Dawson is one of the strongest girls on the court at any given time,” Crandall said. “Piper Tucker and Taylor Lutz are giving us some great minutes. Bailey Cairnduff and LaPrairie are pure shooters and can light it up. Jill Steinmetz is coming into her own in the post and we have a deep bench.
“We have all the parts, and when we play the way that we can play, we’re successful. I feel like we’re close to putting it together consistently.”
GVSU (9-9, 7-7 in GLIAC) will host Ferris State University (6-9, 6-7 GLIAC) at 6:00 p.m. Monday in the Fieldhouse Arena before welcoming Northern Michigan University (12-6, 9-5 GLIAC) on Thursday and Michigan Technological University (14-4, 12-2 GLIAC) on Saturday.