Can’t bounce the Roos’

By Bryan Everson

After playing the role of spoiler at the Summit League Tournament last season, a similar fate was not to be for the Oakland women’s basketball team during Sunday’s game.

Junior forward Bethany Watterworth was plagued with foul trouble for a majority of the contest and No. 6 seed Oakland fell to No. 3 UMKC, 72-59, in a tournament quarterfinal Sunday afternoon.

Watterworth, the second-leading scorer in the conference, picked up her third foul with under eight minutes to go in the first half of the game.

“It was definitely hard, but I thought in the first half  that our team came right back in the game in spite of me being on the bench,” Watterworth said. “It’s just that fight we have.”

Despite competing with a deficit that was never cut to single-digits in the second half, senior guard Sharise Calhoun (eight points) alluded to that fight, saying quitting was never an option, regardless of the score.

“My team … I just know I can never give up on them,” Calhoun said. “They’ve been there for me through everything. We have so much fun. We were going to fight to the very end.”

A layup by Calhoun would slim the Kangaroos’ lead to two points with seconds left in the first half, but that lead would balloon to as large as 23 in the second half, aided by Watterworth picking up her fourth foul quickly in the second half.

Showing poise in maintaining the lead, UMKC coach Candace Whitaker talked about the experience of her team and the critical role it played for the Kangaroos (21-10).

“It’s huge,” Whitaker said. “This is the same team we had last year, so they’re a year older, more experienced. You’ve been in the program longer, and hearing the same things over and over, so they start to click.”

Watterworth played admirable, despite foul trouble, and finished with a team-high 15 points in 25 minutes.

Kangaroos junior forward Kim Nezianya played the bigger impact in the tournament opener for both squads. Nezianya’s presence was felt with 15 points coupled with 14 rebounds, both team-highs for UMKC.

Whitaker spoke to the offense’s reliance on a variety of scorers, not just Hall-Jones, as a key to the team’s progression.

“For (Oakland) I think Watterworth is their star,” Whitaker said. “I don’t feel like we necessarily have a star. Day (senior guard Dayon Hall-Jones) has stepped up and made a lot of plays, but we don’t key on Dayon.”

A bright spot on both ends of the floor for Oakland (12-16) was sophomore guard Victoria Lipscomb. She tied a career-high 14 points and added a team-high six rebounds, but her defensive prowess was equally substantial.

After holding UMKC’s leading scorer Hall-Jones to 4-for-20 shooting in their last meeting, she quieted Hall-Jones, who scored the most points in a Summit League conference game (43) earlier this season, to 11 points on 3-of-10 attempts.

The Golden Grizzlies have traditionally had tremendous success against UMKC during the tenure of coach Candace Whitaker. But after reaching a 12-0 mark, Sunday’s loss marked the second defeat in a row to the Kangaroos, the first coming just eight days prior on the road.

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Contact staff reporter Bryan Everson via email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @BryanWXOU