Despite coming out in their home opener victorious against Widener University, Rowan University women’s basketball team has since lost two games in a row with a combined total of seven points.
The Profs fell to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Lions 70-68 and came up just short against Salisbury University 79-74. Despite the early 1-4 record to start the season, Head Coach Demetrius Poles isn’t worried about the record and knows the strength of a team.
“I’m pretty happy where we are, and I believe this team can win 20 games in a row,” Coach Poles said.
In the matchup against TCNJ on Tuesday, Nov. 23, every quarter was decided by three points or fewer, a close battle until the very end.
In the first half, Profs senior Grace Marshall collected nine points and five rebounds, while junior Nicole Mallard added eight points and also grabbed five boards. For the Lions, Julia Setaro scored ten points and had four rebounds, while Emily Toy had six points and two rebounds.
Despite the Profs only being down by one at halftime, Rowan struggled to connect from three-point land. They only took two three-pointers and missed both of them, compared to TCNJ who hit five of 21 three-pointers, which helped the Lions edge out the Profs in the first half.
Although the Profs struggled from beyond the arc, something that has troubled Rowan early on this season, the Profs were able to capitalize off of opportunities in the paint. The Profs scored 16 points in the paint in the first half, to combat their shooting woes.
“We make good passes into the paint, we trust our post players and our post players trust us to make good passes,” Mallard said. “So us trusting our post players we know that they’re strong, making good post moves, we know that they can finish.”
In the second half, Mallard added 13 points and a steal, bringing her total to 22 points, three steals and five rebounds. She led the team in scoring while sophomore Mackenzie O’Brien led the team with nine boards, and Marshall added 20 points and seven rebounds to round out the team leaders.
In a contest where no team led by more than four points throughout the entirety of the game, Rowan had the final shot of the game and a chance to secure the victory but did not successfully take a shot. Coach Poles reflects on how the team can close out games stronger.
“Rebounding is a big key for us, rebounding and execution of our offense,” Coach Poles said. “Sometimes we come down [the court] and we’re not on the same page, and we don’t have a flow, and it kind of messes us up and it affects the defense. When we do get on defense, even if we’re outsized, we have to fight a little bit harder to get those rebounds off of the rim.”
Despite losing the game 70-68, the Profs defense was strong once again and forced the Lions to make 26 turnovers, while the Profs collected 18 steals.
“Our defense is pretty good, if you look at it, we don’t give up many points, and we play some of the strongest teams in the nation and we cause problems for them, as well as the other teams,” Coach Poles said. “We’re not letting more than 80 points a game, but we have to score, so our defense is where we hang our hat on. We just have to convert offensively.”
In the Profs’ most recent game on Saturday, Nov. 27 against Salisbury, it was once again a close, back and forth matchup.
Rowan trailed by one at the end of the first quarter, but after the Sea Gulls closed off the first half strong, with a 44-38 lead over the Profs.
Sophomore Kristinia Johnson, Mallard and Marshall led the Profs with eight, seven and six points respectively. For Salisbury, Kaylee Otlowski collected 15 points and six rebounds in the first half.
Once again the Profs struggled to shoot beyond the arc as they went two for ten in the first half, while Salisbury capitalized on three-point opportunities shooting 33%.
“Everyone on our team can really shoot, so I really don’t [know why we’re struggling]. We shoot a lot in practice, we get lots of shots up,” Mallard said. “When we have that pressure, and when we’re wide open, we just got to knock down shots, and we’re not doing it.”
In the second half the Profs came out stronger, but still were down 54-61. In the fourth quarter, the Profs outscored the Seagulls 20-18, but that was not enough to secure the victory as they lost 79-74.
Despite the two losses in a row, Mallard has stepped up for the Profs in the last few games and totaled 37 points, seven rebounds and six steals. Coach Poles is impressed with the veteran’s performance this season, including her reliability and strong defensive mindset.
“Nicole [Mallard] is steady, I think she’s one of the best defensive players in America. Her anticipation skills are incredible and she keeps the other teams on their toes because she comes out of nowhere with these steals and it affects the game” Poles said. “She’s also hitting bigger shots, in bigger moments which is a sign of maturity.”
The Profs will need to utilize Mallard’s defensive skills and her explosiveness, when they take on Stockton University Wednesday, Dec. 1 in a key New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) matchup at home.
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