When the Swarthmore women’s basketball team hosted Gettysburg in the final game before Winter Break on December 9, the Garnet led by four at the half and held Alyssa Oursler, a first team All-Centennial candidate, without a single point for the game before ultimately falling in a heartbreaker 55-52.
But on Saturday in the rematch on the Battlefield, the Bullets jumped on the Garnet early, building up a double-digit lead just 7:30 into the first half of play and closing the first half on a 21-5 run over the final 7:22 to lead by 22 at the break en route to a 77-51 final that left the Garnet clinging to their last strands of playoff life.
The Bullets shot a staggering 65.6 percent from the floor in the first half and were led by 17 points in the period by Oursler who scored only two points in the second. With a combination of backdoor cuts and fades, she scored at will even as the Garnet switched between man and zone in an effort to slow down the seemingly unstoppable Gettysburg offense.
“They run through their offenses really well, so even when they don’t score quickly, they wait for a good shot so that makes them very hard to defend,” Nicole Rizzo ’12 said. “They are a very disciplined team, have a few set offenses that they run consistently well, and always stay composed.”
Staying disciplined on defense has been a focus in practice this past week for the team. “Something that we’re working on in practice is being more aggressive with our man defense and we’re working on implementing new zones,” Kayla Moritzky ’14 said. “Everyone is a little bit frustrated but we all have the will to continue to fight and continue on through the last three weeks of the season.”
The Garnet scoring was led by Madge Ross ’13, who posted an efficient 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting while adding five rebounds and two steals. Moritzky was the only other Swarthmore player in double figures with 10 points as the team again struggled from the floor, shooting just 25.8 percent for the game including just 25.6 percent inside the three-point arc.
“Gettysburg played great,” head coach Renee DeVarney said. “We didn’t play horrible, but they were a step quicker and made all of their open shots. We played better in the second half, but that seems to be the story of our year. When we put two halves together, we can do well.”
Indeed, the Garnet forced seven turnovers and held the Bullets to 26-percent shooting in a strong defensive performance after halftime.. But the offense continued to struggle as the team hit on just five of 32 field goal attempts, 15.6 percent. Since a dominant victory at Haverford on January 18th when the team shot 51 percent, Swarthmore has hit just 56 of 171 field goal attempts, 32.8 percent.
Over that same span, the team is just 12-61 from three. For a team whose identity revolves around living and dying by the three, the shooting touch has deserted the Garnet.
Swarthmore also caught the Bullets at a bad time. The win on Saturday was Gettysburg’s seventh in a row. No team has scored more than 60 points in that span. Add in a nearly-three-hour bus ride and it’s all a formula for Saturday’s result. Interestingly, it has been nearly two full years since Swarthmore’s baseball team won at Gettysburg, the last time the Garnet was victorious on the Battlefield in a varsity team, as opposed to individual, sport.
The Garnet remains optimistic and excited about the challenge of playing five contests to end the season which are, for all practical purposes, each elimination games. “We’re going to go at each as hard as we can. They are tough games, but this Conference is great because it is so competitive, and we know that anyone can beat anyone else. I know that playoffs are still possible for us,” Rizzo said.
Added DeVarney, “We have really been on a roller coaster. We know we are not as good as our greatest day at Haverford and we know we are not as bad as our worst days at Gettysburg or Hopkins. Many of our key players are freshmen and sophomores and I think consistency will come. We are excited and cautiously optimistic.”
The roller-coaster ride continued Wednesday on the road against Muhlenberg, where the Garnet fell to the Mules 81-46. They shot 32 percent from the field.
The Garnet returns to the court on Saturday hosting Johns Hopkins at 1PM. When the teams first met in Baltimore this year, the Garnet led 20-18 midway through the first half before Hopkins closed out the opening stanza on a 30-8 run en route to a 71-39 win.
The Blue Jays, who sit in first place in the Conference, were ranked No. 25 in the latest d3hoops.com national poll.