Grizzlies fall to Jackrabbits without injured star

With their defensive leader on the bench in a walking boot and crutches, the Oakland University women’s basketball team (16-10, 10-5) couldn’t stop South Dakota State’s efficient inside-outside game, falling 76-52 on Saturday afternoon.

“It wasn’t our night. We didn’t play Oakland basketball and South Dakota State played like they wanted to get after us after we beat them on their home floor (on Jan. 24),” said head coach Beckie Francis.

Junior center Brittany Carnago suffered an ankle injury during the week and was unable to even dress for Saturday’s game. No timetable has been set for her return to the team.

“You have to change your whole defense without Carnago because she’s in the top five in the nation for blocked shots and obviously our defense had just one day to prep,” Francis said. “But I’m not going to use that as an excuse. We did not execute our game plan and our shots weren’t falling. South Dakota State is a very well-coached team with a lot of pride.”

Besides her post defense skills, Carnago’s presence was sorely missed in three major statistical categories that doomed OU’s chances of winning.

SDSU held big advantages in rebounds (54 to 24), points in the paint (26 to 14), and second chance points (18 to 2).

“Their size hurt us. We missed a lot of shots and that’s why they got so many defensive rebounds,” Francis said. “South Dakota has such a good transition game, we were pulling back (on defense), so we weren’t able to crash the boards because we were trying to get back defensively.”

Falling behind 9-4 five minutes into the game and shooting under 20 percent from the field, Oakland’s offense looked out of sync early.

A quick 8-0 run helped the Grizzlies pull ahead by three, and it looked like they might have been able to overcome Carnago’s absence.

Unfortunately for Francis’ squad, South Dakota State started to heat up from beyond the arc, and a game-changing 26-3 run by the Jackrabbits put them up 38-18 at halftime.

Normally a 36 percent-shooting team from three-point range this season, SDSU (14-13, 10-6) was on fire against the Golden Grizzlies, shooting 48 percent from behind the arc.

“We had them scouted and we knew who the shooters were. We just made some errors in leaving them open, and they knocked their shots down,” said sophomore forward Bethany Watterworth. “This was really disappointing but we just have to come out Monday night and be ready to go.”

Watterworth led the team in scoring with 21 points, her 25th double-digit scoring effort in 26 games this season. Junior Sharise Calhoun was the only other player in double figures for Oakland, scoring 10 points.

Oakland shot just 30 percent from the field for the game – a huge dropoff from their normal 44.5 percent in conference play.

Despite the outcome, Calhoun isn’t dwelling on her team’s second straight loss at home.

“Every game, you have to look at what you’ve done and take it as a learning experience,” Calhoun said. “All I’m trying to do is fire up my team for the next one, because it’s Senior Night and we want to send them out with a win.”

The team will play their final home game of the season on Monday against North Dakota State starting at 6:30 p.m. It will be the last home game for seniors Kirstie Malone, Anna Patritto and Elizabeth Hafeli.