Third time or not, another ACC opponent was the charm for Oakland’s women’s basketball team.
The Golden Grizzlies (4-4) defeated Clemson Friday night, 63-51, giving them their third straight victory over the power conference.
“We got Florida State, they were in the top 25 a couple years ago, and then struck Clemson,” Oakland coach Becky Francis said. “We’re pretty proud of this little mid-major.”
Junior forward Bethany Watterworth sank 16 points in the second half, and paced all scorers with 21 and added eight rebounds for Oakland.
“In the first half I wasn’t really hitting too much, but I didn’t let that affect me, and my teammates did a really good job of keeping us in the game,” Watterworth said. “[In the second half] I kind of let the game come to me and made some passes. Then if I’m not hitting the outside shots, try to attack more.”
Despite good size and length inside for the Tigers (3-5), Oakland outscored Clemson in the paint 34-22. They also out-rebounded their opponent 45-32, in large part due to more aggressive rebounding from sophomore guard Zakiya Minifee. She collected a game-high 11 rebounds, and also notched a season-high 15 points, along with five steals.
“That was our strategy; when a team plays a zone against us and we beat it to go hit the O-boards,” Francis said. “It was mostly Zakiya and Bethany that had some huge offensive rebound put-backs. But even Brit (Carnago) had one, Sharise (Calhoun) had a key one. And Julia Vestin, our player from Sweeden, played really solid all game and came up with a big one when the game was close.”
The Golden Grizzlies were able to take the lead on a 3-pointer by reserve guard Elizabeth Hamlet in the first half and never looked back. Clemson cut the lead to four coming out of the locker room, but a 12-4 run keyed by Tigers’ turnovers and several Watterworth buckets late in the second half allowed Oakland to stretch its lead to as much as 15 points with several minutes remaining.
Oakland showed an improved effort after a 58-51 defeat last Saturday against Summit League newcomer South Dakota.
“We were disappointed after our conference loss, and we came into practice and really worked hard,” Carnago said. “We played hard the whole game, and felt like we were really in control the whole game.”
Carnago (four points, seven rebounds), who had just nine blocks on the season coming into Friday’s contest, notched six blocks and moved one past Sarah Judd for second place all-time on Oakland’s career blocks list.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Carnago said. “I don’t ever really go into games thinking about getting blocks or focusing on that, I just come in thinking to get stops and focusing on defense.”
Amongst the run of ACC victories, the win marked Oakland’s second straight over Clemson, who they defeated on the road 73-49 last season. Watterworth led with an identical 21 points in that contest as well.
“They were still pretty big though last year,” Watterworth said. “They tried to pound it in, and that was kind of there game plan again this year. I thought we took advantage of really pressuring their guards…I think they had three freshman starters, and I think our defense again came up with some big stops.”
For Oakland, sophomore guard Victoria Lipscomb also contributed eight points and six rebounds.
Clemson freshman wing Nikki Dixon, the team’s leading scorer, finished with a team-highs of 13 points and five steals, but shot just 2-for-11 from the floor and turned the ball over six times on the night. Freshman guard/forward Kelly Gramlich provided a spark off the bench for the Tigers, adding all her nine points on three 3-pointers.
The Oakland women’s basketball team takes the floor at home again Sunday at 3 p.m. in another non-conference matchup against Illinois-Chicago (4-3) of the Horizon League.
Notes: Coach Francis talked about the needed six days off for the team between games during finals week, mentioning the team finishing amongst the top 25 of NCAA D-I in GPA often over the past seven or eight years. She said she thought that affected the team over the past week…Oakland’s five 3-pointers against Clemson were a season high, breaking their previous high of four on several occasions. It also marked their most accurate 3-point effort since the season opener against George Mason, where they shot 3 of 6 beyond the arc.