Preview: GVSU women's basketball looks to maintain momentum vs. Purdue Northwest
Everything appears to be rolling right now for the Grand Valley State women’s basketball team. After a big win against the Ferris State Bulldogs 76-57 on Saturday, Jan. 20, the No. 24 ranked Lakers are currently riding a three-game win streak and looking ready for another big win against Purdue Northwest this Saturday, Jan. 27, at the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena.
The Lakers are turning heads with how well they’re playing so far this season, posting an impressive record of 16-3 overall (9-2 GLIAC) and winning nine of their past 10 games. They also happen to play their best basketball at the Fieldhouse, posting an undefeated record at home (8-0).
Head coach Mike Williams has noted both how well the team has played lately and how his players have exceeded expectations.
“I think we’re doing a good job this year,” Williams said. “I believe we’re playing much better than expected since we just keep doing good things.”
Williams has seen his team improve in many ways, but their greatest strides have come building the foundation of their "toughness department." Not only that, but Williams has enjoyed seeing his players finally settle into their new roles.
“We’ve become a lot tougher, and I think we’ve become a little more mature and seasoned,” Williams said. “We were a young team at the beginning of the year who have settled into new roles throughout the season, and I think we’ve gotten better at all aspects of the game.”
GVSU has been shooting the lights out lately. During last weekend's series, the team shot for more than 42 percent from beyond the arc. Guards Jenn DeBoer and Natalie Koenig combined for 38 points in the past win against Ferris State, shooting 9-18 from 3-point range.
Arguably the biggest improvement Williams has seen is the shift in mentality when his players work out. He has noticed that each member is starting to take practice a little more seriously, and veteran players are evening leading portions of practice themselves.
“We’ve been trying to shift the focus from a coaches-led team to a players-led team, and it’s nice to see us evolving a bit,” Williams said. “It’s not quite where we want it yet, but I think we’re heading in the right direction.”
This is a rather unique week for the basketball squad. Usually, the team competes twice per weekend: one game on Thursday and the other on Saturday. But this week, they only have one game: a home matchup against the Pride of Purdue Northwest.
Although the Pride are currently posting a 3-13 record, having lost five of their last six games, the Lakers aren't underestimating their opponents. Purdue Northwest's last victory came with an impressive score differential (70-51) against Lake Superior State.
Purdue Northwest does have a few players who can break out and have the potential to casue problems for the Lakers defensively. Leading the Pride is Shae Rhonehouse, who tallied 24 points in her last game. Teammate Ellie Michalski posted 17 rebounds, her eighth game with more than 10 rebounds this year. The Lakers are preparing for these two rebounding powerhouses as they make their game plan this week in practice.
“This week is a bit of a change to our routine, with only playing one game this week,” Williams said. “But we get a chance this week to be strategic about it and try a few different things to prepare, so I’m excited for that.”
Despite a solid year so far for this GVSU basketball team, Williams still sees a lot of things that need improvement, specifically on the defensive end of the floor.
“We’re being aggressive with the ball, which is getting us easier baskets, but we have to clean up our turnovers a bit,” Williams said. “Defensively, we have to stay in front of players and do a better job challenging shots.”
The Lakers still sit in second place in the GLIAC, two games behind the undefeated Ashland Eagles. If the Lakers keep up the hot shooting and continue to put in work on the boards, this is a basketball team that can be dangerous come GLIAC tournament time.
“I think we’re a talented team since we can shoot it well, rebound well and we got good size inside,” Williams said. “We’re a team that can compete in any game we play in, and come GLIAC tournament time, we’re going to be pretty solid.”
GVSU looks to continue the undefeated campaign this year as they attempt to pick up their 17th win of the season against Purdue Northwest this Saturday, Jan. 27. Tip-off is at 3 p.m. at the GVSU Fieldhouse.