Grizzly defense breaks down in 92-78 loss

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The Oakland University women’s basketball team (11-14, 6-6 Horizon) lost to Wright State (19-7, 8-3) by a score of 92-78 Tuesday night at the O’rena.

The Golden Grizzlies were unable to stop the Horizon League’s best scorer, Raiders junior guard Kim Demmings. Her career-high 36 points were the most OU has given up to a single player all season.

“We knew she was going to get her points,” OU head coach Jeff Tungate said. “But we had to do a better job on the second and third scorers.”

The Raiders had three additional players score in double figures, including senior guard KC Elkins, who had 27.

The Grizzlies trailed early and often in the first half. Poor shooting by Oakland allowed Wright State’s lead to balloon to 13 with 5:27 remaining.

OU suffered from a series of scoring droughts that led to a 2-for-22 streak in the middle of the half.

“When we started missing shots it got to our defense and we stopped guarding people,” Tungate said.  “They were able to make easy baskets in the second half and late in the first half.”

Turnovers hurt the Grizzlies as well. OU ranks fourth in the league in turnover margin, but Tuesday’s minus-10 differential gave WSU 14 fast break points to the OU’s zero.

“They do a really good job at forcing turnovers,” Tungate said. “We talked about taking care of the basketball before the game, but tonight we had 23 turnovers.”

OU junior guard Elena Popkey finally found her rhythm and shot the Grizzlies back into the game by making five-straight field goal attempts in a five minute span.

The hot shooting run gave Popkey a game-high 17 points heading into halftime and helped trim OU’s deficit to just one point.

Oakland was unable to gain the lead in the second half, however, and saw Wright State consistently pulling away.

“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit, they’ve got some really good players,” Tungate said.

Demmings took control in the second half, scoring 26 points as it seemed the Grizzlies could not stop anybody.  Tungate stressed the importance of consistent defense.

“If you get three stops in a row six times in a game, you’re chances of winning are 80 percent,” he said.

The Grizzlies head to Valparaiso on Feb. 22 as they look to finish the season strong. Three of OU’s final four games are on the road and Tungate hopes his team can finish in the top four of the league.

“We’re a team that was picked eighth in the league to start and right now we’re 6-6,” he said.  “In our first year in the Horizon League, we want to be able to host a game in the conference tournament.”