Sophomore forward Bethany Watterworth had 16 points and 10 rebounds, for her second straight double-double, as Oakland University defeated Cornell, 56-45, Sunday afternoon.
Watterworth had 22 points and 10 rebounds in Oakland’s 86-40 win against Rochester College on Nov. 22.
Watterworth said the win was a result of a great effort by the whole team.
“We were very unselfish with the ball, and everyone was involved,” Watterworth said. “A lot of people were scoring and everyone was really doing their part tonight.”
Junior center Brittany Carnago had 10 points, five blocks and four rebounds for Oakland, while freshman guard Elizabeth Hamlet had seven points in her first career start.
Oakland coach Beckie Francis said Carnago’s shot blocking early on was crucial.
“Blocking those five shots really set the tone for us defensively, to give us that nice comfortable lead in the first half, which we needed in the second half,” Francis said.
Oakland got off to a quick start, with an 11-0 run following Cornell’s basket to open the game. The Grizzlies led by as much as 17 in the first half, and entered the halftime with a 31-17 advantage on the scoreboard.
Cornell rallied to begin the second half, cutting its deficit to just four points, but that was as close as the Big Red would come.
Hamlet’s 3-pointer with 3:41 left in the game stretched the Grizzlies’ lead back up to 13, and they held on for the win.
“What we like about Hamlet is she’s really a smart player,” Francis said. “She played with Bethany Watterworth and Brittany Carnago in AAU for years, and those three work well together.”
Francis credited the team’s discipline on defense as the reason why Oakland survived the Big Red’s comeback bid.
“That’s what I was really proud of, is that they played smart defense,” Francis said. “We had that lead, and we wanted to keep that clock going. It’s just discipline. It’s just mental toughness that they showed.”
Carnago said one of the team’s goals on defense was to stay out of foul trouble and not go for too many steals to avoid reach-in calls.
Oakland shot 75 percent from the free throw line (15-20), while Cornell did not attempt a free throw in the entire game.
Watterworth said free throw shooting is one of the four key factors that the Grizzlies focus on for each game.
“We look at how many free throws they shoot and how many we make, and that’s just awesome that they didn’t even shoot a free throw and we got to the line (often),” Watterworth said.
Francis said the team will need to cut down on its turnovers if it hopes to continue its success. Oakland came into the game averaging 17 turnovers per game, and it had 23 against Cornell.
Oakland will begin Summit League play with its next game on Dec. 2, at home against Southern Utah. The Grizzlies will follow up with two more home games against UMKC and Illinois.
Francis said the five-game home stand is an opportunity for the Grizzlies to build some momentum.
“We’re really excited about the first conference game on Thursday, which is a doubleheader with the men,” Francis said. “We’re looking to take this confidence and roll it into the next game.”