Defensive breakdowns and execution have been problems for the Ottawa University women’s basketball team this season.
The Thanksgiving break gave the squad time to work on those deficiencies. The Lady Braves put together their most solid game of the season and broke into the win column for the first time this season Monday night in Wilson Field House.
Ottawa led wire-to-wire in a 66-49 win over Bethel. Ottawa jumped on top 13-4 and never looked back.
“We did a great job of coming out and being aggressive,” Ottawa coach Bruce Tate said. “That was great to see to have that energy and intensity. Mainly on the defensive end. It was great to have our defense create offense.”
Ottawa forced 24 turnovers and limited the visitors to 33 percent shooting. Ottawa had a 21-9 advantage in points off turnovers.
“I wanted them as focused as we could be on the defensive end,” Tate said. “We are going to have to win games ugly with how we struggle offensively. The only way you can do that is through defense, rebounding and taking care of the basketball. We did not have too many empty possessions. We had more shot opportunities than they did because of the turnovers.”
Tate said having success was big boost for the players.
“Confidence-wise is huge for them to beat a top team [in our conference],” Tate said. “I told them ‘we come out with a game plan, but you have to execute it. It is great for them to do that. We had some major defensive breakdowns from our scout [in previous games].”
Ottawa built its largest lead of 21 points with 2:20 left in the fourth quarter. The Lady Braves maintained a double-digit lead throughout the game. Ottawa led 35-18 at halftime.
The Lady Braves struggled hitting free throws this season, which kept them from putting together any type of scoring runs. Ottawa found the mark, hitting 80 percent (24-30) against Bethel.
“If we had been shooting free throws the same way that changes the complexion of the game,” Tate said. “That puts more pressure on their offense to go execute.”
Ottawa shot 31 percent from the field, but hit shots in key moments.
“We were able to get some timely baskets,” Tate said. “It was good team basketball.”
Ottawa played its whole roster with nine players receiving at least 10 minutes. Tate said the plan was for everyone to play two or three minutes here or there. The bench play gave Ottawa a boost with 22 points.
The Lady Braves had three players in double figures, led by Avery Lewman’s 14 points. Madi McAvoy scored 13 points, had a team-high seven rebounds and tallied four steals. Liz Vaughn finished with 10 points. Kelsey Hendricks led Ottawa with three assists and also had three steals.
Ottawa (1-7, 1-4) plays Thursday against Friends University in Wichita.