By Charlie Wolfson, news correspondent
After a 2-0 start to the season, the Northeastern women’s basketball team struggled through a five-game losing streak. This run, stretching from Nov. 21 to Nov. 26, included a home loss to St. Mary’s College, a loss at Quinnipiac University and losses to Stanford University, Purdue University and Wichita State University in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico.
On Friday, the Huskies welcomed the St. Mary’s Gaels to Solomon Court, where over 1,200 local school children, participating in the team’s annual Kids Day, witnessed the Huskies lose 77-53.
The first half was more competitive than the final score suggests. Northeastern held a one-point lead after the first quarter, and the second quarter saw five lead changes. The Gaels took the lead for good, though, with 2:53 remaining in the second. They took a 44-36 advantage into halftime and never looked back.
Things got out of hand quickly in the second half, as St. Mary’s went on a 13-0 run to open the third quarter. Northeastern only made three field goals in the fourth, and the Gaels cruised to a comfortable 24-point victory.
Northeastern head coach Kelly Cole said she respected the team’s opponents and dissected what went wrong for her team.
“First of all, this is a really good team,” said Cole. “We put them on the foul line early, and in the second half, their big kids came in and really took it at us, and we didn’t have an answer.”
Foul trouble hampered the Huskies throughout the game.
“They went [to the line] 18 times in the first half, we went twice,” Cole said. “Our gameplan was to contain their penetration, and clearly we didn’t do that the way we wanted to.”
After the game, Cole was hopeful that the team’s upcoming trip to Mexico to compete in the Cancun Challenge would be a learning experience for her players.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids who will get some good minutes and are going to see a whole different kind of world,” she said. “It’s a great chance for us to gain experience.”
After her team came back to Boston with three losses in hand, Cole had plenty to say about the trip, both positive and negative, especially of the Stanford game.
“They’re a fantastic team; they’re ranked 11th in the country,” she said. “I think we had a little bit of a slow start, but they’re big kids. Our inside numbers were down, and part of that was because they had a handful of blocked shots, they changed our shots, especially on the interior. I’m sure in the first quarter there was a fear factor, you know, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re playing Stanford,’ but we played a great game. We were within eight points in the third quarter. Towards the end of the third and into the fourth, we just ran out of steam.”
The offensive woes continued on against Purdue in a 79-54 defeat. The teams were nearly even in rebounding – the Boilermakers held a 38-36 edge on the glass – but Cole had other ideas as to why the team still struggled to score.
“I think teams are really focusing in on Jess [Genco],” Cole said. “Talking to [Purdue’s] coach afterwards, she said, ‘One of our main goals was to take Jess out of the mix.’ The amount of pressure she has to deal with from start to finish, whether it’s distributing the ball or getting a shot off, they had the size and the personnel to really — I don’t want to say ‘shut her down,’ because she still scored, but to really make her work hard for everything.”
Genco scored nine points against Purdue.
Of the team’s 87-73 loss to Wichita State on Nov. 26, Cole thought there was a change in styles from the first two games.
“The first two games were different,” she said. “Both were solid teams that focused on execution. They do what you expect them to do. Wichita State, the way it was called, was more like a rugby match. I think we’re more of a finesse team. Their physicality took us out of what we wanted to do.”
Though they did not achieve their overarching goal of winning, Cole thought the team took a lot of positives from the trip.
“We’ve got a really young team,” Cole said. “We got ourselves down early. But we never gave up, we fought through, we made great comebacks. I think it was a great experience for our kids, to be able to say, ‘Hey, we can play with whoever we want to play with.’ We can play with the 11th-ranked team in the country. Plus, we got a lot of kids really good minutes. Some of our freshmen, in Shannon Todd and Ayonna Dublin, got really good minutes. I think it was an all-around great experience for us.”
Cole likened the level of competition they faced in Stanford and Purdue to nothing else the Huskies will face this year, save for a meeting with Michigan State on Dec. 18. The Wichita State game, she said, is more akin to what they will see in the upcoming Colonial Athletic Association schedule.
The Huskies are back in action against the University of New Hampshire on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. at Solomon Court.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics