Held below 40 points for a second-straight night, Griffins fall to Huskies

Kayla Ivicak passes one past MRU's Michelle Tiffany on Saturday night. Ivicak recorded her seventh double-double of the season in a 70-61 loss (Eduardo Perez photo).
Kayla Ivicak passes one past MRU's Michelle Tiffany on Saturday night. Ivicak recorded her seventh double-double of the season in a 70-61 loss (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Saturday's Canada West women's basketball game was more than seven minutes old before Kayla Ivicak's free throw gave the MacEwan Griffins their first point.

An offensive funk of shots clanging off the rim, tipped passes, turnovers and heartbreak greeted the Griffins for the majority of the evening as the visiting Saskatchewan Huskies held them under 40 points for a second-straight night in winning comfortably, 88-39, to complete a weekend sweep.

"I thought to start the game we had some good looks, some open shots and they were just in and out," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams. "That kind of stuff starts to wear on you a bit. There's only so long you can go saying 'great shot, good look' before the girls start to feel the weight of that and the pressure of needing to score.

"But we're doing the right things. We're young and growing and we just take it all learning."

It didn't take long before the night turned into a training session for the Griffins, who were behind by as large as 59 points late in the third quarter. Not only was Saskatchewan rolling on offence, but their defence was in fine form, disrupting much of what MacEwan was trying to do.

"I think a lot of it comes from our defensive intensity," said Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis, whose team improves to 11-1 on the season. "I thought we got a lot of energy from our quarter court D. I thought we were pretty disruptive and were able to get it out and run in transition and knocked a bunch of threes down in that third quarter."

Sabine Dukate was key in setting the early tone for Saskatchewan and finished with a game-high 19 points. At one point, early in the second quarter, she had as many points (10) as the Griffins had turnovers.

"She's an explosive player and she can really impact the game at both ends when she's engaged," said Thomaidis. "We saw a bit of that tonight, so that was good to see. She shot the ball a bit better and distributed the ball well and brought some on-ball defence. I was happy with that."

Libby Epoch had 13 points for the Huskies, while Megan Ahlstrom and Summer Masikewich each chipped in 12. Ahlstrom and Kyla Shand each had three steals.

"Overall, I was pretty happy," said Thomaidis. "I thought we shot the ball really well, had some high-quality shots for the most part. Our guards distributed the ball pretty well."

MacEwan shot just 15.4 per cent in the first quarter and had just 12 points on the board at half-time. After a seven-point third quarter, it appeared they'd go as quietly into the night as any team ever has, but then a spark seemed to ignite on their bench.

They emerged in the fourth quarter a changed bunch, aggressively penetrating the lane, moving the ball quickly and basically doing everything they needed to be doing earlier in the game. It led to the Griffins outscoring the Huskies 20-13 in the final 10 minutes, but file it under too-little, too-late.

Ellie McCarthy led the Griffins with nine points, while Paige Knull and Ivicak had eight each.

"We knew we had to gain some momentum going forward for the rest of our season," said Adams, whose team has fallen to 3-9 in the standings but is by no means out of playoff contention. "We just said 'let's get after it. Who cares?' Kind of a carefree mentality – go out and put your head down, get to the rim, draw fouls, move the ball. Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

"Some good things happened. We started rebounding the ball a little bit better and it let us get out in transition a little bit and gain some momentum that way.

"Our young kids came in again," she added. "What a great opportunity to gain some experience against a very good team. It's obviously going to help them individually but also help our program moving forward because they've gained some experience against some very tough and talented players."

For Saskatchewan, it was a learning experience, too. How do you keep pushing when you have a 59-point lead?

"You're playing against yourselves and your own standards and you have to make sure you don't allow yourself to let them dip," said Thomaidis. "I thought we did that in the fourth quarter, unfortunately, but credit to MacEwan, too; they had something to do with it."

The Griffins will be back in action Jan. 12-13 when they host Mount Royal University (0-12) in their annual Shoot for the Cure contest. Saskatchewan will visit UBC-Okanagan (0-11) on the same days.