A 10-point second-half lead wasn’t enough as the Loyola women’s basketball team fell to Stetson University 49-45 in the first round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) March 19 in Frankfort, Kentucky. Despite the loss, Loyola is slated to play two more games in the WBI’s consolation bracket.
First-year guard Maya Chandler was the only Rambler to reach double figures, finishing with a team-high 17 points on 6-for-14 shooting to go along with five turnovers.
“She looked unsure a lot, and maybe that is a lack of experience in postseason play, but I think we all looked unsure today,” Loyola head coach Kate Achter said. “Thankfully Maya did make a couple buckets there late which helped keep us close. We still need a little bit better from Maya, and I think Maya would tell you the same thing — 17 points is great but five turnovers is something she can improve on.”
Entering the WBI, the Ramblers had the best ranking in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) out of the eight teams in the tournament field. Out of 343 Division I teams, Loyola ranked No. 147 while Stetson was No. 273.
The first half was rough offensively for both teams. Loyola shot 25.8 percent from the field, while Stetson shot 29.2 percent. Junior forward Allison Day and senior guard Ellie Rice — Loyola’s only two double-digit scorers this season — combined for just a single point on 0-for-10 shooting from the field in the first half.
Despite the offensive struggles from their best players, the Ramblers’ defense kept them in the game early on. The Hatters scored just two points in the second quarter on 1-for-10 shooting as a team. The Ramblers weren’t able to capitalize much on Stetson’s offensive woes, managing just seven points in the quarter to head into halftime with a 21-16 lead over the Hatters.
The Ramblers took their first double-digit lead — up 27-17 with 7:04 remaining in the third quarter, but it was downhill for Loyola after that point. Stetson ended the period on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 29 heading into the final 10 minutes.
The Hatters applied a lot of defensive pressure, often guarding the entire length of the floor in a zone defense Loyola struggled to crack. Achter said her team prepared for the press and zone defensive schemes but that her team just didn’t do a good job of executing. The Ramblers committed 18 turnovers — 10 of which came in the second half.
Loyola’s struggles continued into the fourth quarter, as the Hatters scored the first seven points of the period while the Ramblers had a scoring drought that lasted nearly the first five minutes of the quarter.
Loyola managed to claw back to get within a single point of the Hatters with 2:49 left to play, but Stetson responded with a 9-2 run to take an eight-point lead — its largest of the game.
A three-pointer from Loyola with 13 seconds left to play and another with five second to go brought the Ramblers to within two points. But it was too little, too late as the Hatters walked away with a four-point victory after knocking down a pair of free throws to put the game away.
“I’m not thrilled with the result certainly, but not thrilled in the way it transpired for us,” Achter said. “I thought we got away from what really makes us a complete basketball team. The second quarter, we hold a team to two points and then in the fourth quarter we give up 20. That’s just not great basketball.”
After a difficult first half, Day started to get things going offensively in the second half. Day scored eight second-half points to finish with nine for the entire game on 3-for-8 shooting. Rice never really got going, ending with just two points on 1-for-11 shooting.
Stetson was led by junior guard Yazz Wazeerud-Din’s 18 points and four steals. Sophomore guard Jamiya Turner was the other Hatter to reach double figures, recording 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
Despite the loss, Loyola’s season isn’t over. The Ramblers are set to play in the WBI consolation bracket, matching up with Manhattan College March 20. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. on Prepspin.