A shocking upset in their season opener spoiled women’s basketball’s northern road trip.
The nationally eighth-ranked Gaels fell to the Lakehead Thunderwolves 82-76 last Friday, losing in Thunder Bay for the first time since 2010.
Head coach Dave Wilson said other than a stretch to start the second half, Queen’s struggled to play at a high level.
“We only played eight minutes of really good basketball in [the game],” Wilson said. “That was a period of time when we went from 15 down to tied. Aside from that, I thought we were pretty sketchy in terms of what we were doing both defensively and offensively.”
Wilson said he couldn’t pinpoint an exact reason for the Gaels’ loss, but added that the team faced some nerves due to their success last season. Queen’s captured the OUA East title in 2013-14 on the way to a CIS tournament appearance.
“If I had the absolute answers [for the loss], I’d be making a lot more money,” he said. “I think there was anxiety going into the game. One being the first league game, two being ranked. This is the first time for most of the kids on our team to be ranked in the top 10. So there were a fair number of distractions and pressures created from that.”
The Gaels fell victim to Thunderwolves guard Jylisa Williams, who torched them for 42 points, eight rebounds and five steals.
Queen’s was outscored 40-27 in the opening half, before cutting the lead in the remaining two quarters. They stayed within two to four points for the majority of the second half before turning to intentional fouls near the end of the game, increasing the final deficit to six.
Wilson said it’s become a trend for his team to need an extra boost to get going offensively, adding that the Gaels need to find a sense of urgency earlier in contests.
“Ultimately, I think it’s our ability to focus and our ability to start the basketball game. We need to learn to manage distractions much better,” he said. “With that hopefully will come a sharper start to the basketball game.”
Guard Liz Boag racked up 19 points for the Gaels, tied for highest on the team. Fellow guard Emily Hazlett also posted 19 points and added six steals starting in place of the injured Gemma Bullard.
“I thought they did a good job of creating that spark that we needed to get things going,” Wilson said. “We just need to have a little more balanced support around them to ensure we can beat very good teams.”
The team has been plagued by injuries early in the year. Bullard and post Gia Spiropoulos are both out with concussions; Wilson said he hopes Spiropoulos will be able to return later this month, while he’s more doubtful about Bullard returning imminently.
The Gaels return to Kingston this weekend for their home opener, where they’ll face the Waterloo Warriors and the Laurier Golden Hawks. Laurier joined Queen’s at last year’s CIS tournament and should prove to be a difficult test.
“We have the ability to control our own destiny,” Wilson said. “If we can get our focus back onto our things and control the things we can control, then I think we have a very good chance of being successful this weekend.”
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