Bumpy opening for w. hoops

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

With a 16-player roster that incudes only one senior and two juniors, the women’s basketball team knew it would have to battle inexperience as it opened the season. In its first two games, this weakness was apparent as Brown (0-2) lost to Providence College 79-45 in its home opener Friday night, then fell to Quinnipiac University 85-41 on Sunday.

Captain Ann O’Neal ’08 said the team should improve its inconsistent play once it gets deeper into its schedule.

“We were outworked and lost confidence, which is unacceptable,” she said. “I just think time will help everything because the freshman are gaining experience and improving every day in practice. It’s good for them to hear that we have confidence in them.”

Giving up a game average of 82 points in the two losses, Brown pointed to the defense as the culprit for the blowout losses.

“(The defense) is pretty much what (Head Coach Jean Marie Burr) has gone berserk about in the locker room,” O’Neal said.

In Brown’s 17th meeting with its crosstown rival, Providence opened with a 10-1 run to take a comfortable lead just less than five minutes into the game. Brown played the Friars evenly over the next six minutes as the teams each scored nine points. But the visitors mixed in free throws, layups and a 3-pointer by guard Catherine Bove to take a 32-12 advantage with 5:19 left to play in the first half.

Though Burr called two timeouts during the run to try and let her team regroup, the Bears could do little to slow the Providence offense, and the Friars took a 39-23 halftime lead. In the second half, the Friars extended their lead to 30 midway through the half and cruised to the finish.

Burr mentioned that the team’s youth on offense contributed to its lack of firepower, but she said the “biggest number that sticks in my mind is 79 points.”

One bright spot from the game was the play of guard Shae Fitzpatrick ’10, who led the team with 16 points. Burr said the sophomore’s play “got us through some tough periods,” and Fitzpatrick said that igniting the offense in the team’s opener was enjoyable.

“When you’re in a drought then if you knock one down you get the crowd into it, and we had a pretty good crowd tonight,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s fun, it’s a great feeling. And then you get a stop and everyone’s getting energized.”

In its trip to Hamden, Conn. on Sunday, Brown faced another athletically gifted opponent that it had trouble containing from the opening tip. The Bears fell behind 14-2 in the early going behind strong play from the Bobcats’ two preseason All-Conference picks, Erin Kerner and Monique Lee. Brown bounced back from its slow start but could not close the deficit. The Bears faced a 38-21 halftime disadvantage despite a deep three-pointer from Fitzpatrick at the end of the half. Quinnipiac closed out Brown by dropping 47 points in the second half.

“On defense, we’re not working as a team and we’re not getting back in transition as a team,” O’Neal said. “Everything is individual right now. If someone gets beat we have to rotate. Once that gets fixed we’ll be better.”

O’Neal acknowledged that having a strong defense is integral to having a successful season.

“I’ve been on a lot of Brown basketball teams and (two years ago) we won the league championship, and we had a great defense then,” O’Neal said.

Fitzpatrick emphasized that defense will be a focal point for the rest of the season.

“We’re all about defense,” she said. “We work on it in practice every day, and we know what we need to get better at. We want that to be our staple because you can’t always control the offense, but you can control the defense.”

Despite the rough weekend, the team knows that some weaknesses can quickly be turned into strengths. Due to its aggressive style, Brown shot 29 free throws against Providence, but made only 48 percent from the line. The team jumped to 16-for-25 for 64 percent from the charity stripe against Quinnipiac, and O’Neal said the team has even more room for improvement.

After “a long week of practice,” according to O’Neal, the team will play the host in the first round of the University of Vermont Tournament on Saturday, then face either St. John’s University or North Carolina State University on Sunday.

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