Saints sputter on offense in loss to SPU

mwochnick@theolympian.comFebruary 21, 2014 

LACEY — The comforts of Marcus Pavilion have made Saint Martin’s nearly unbeatable at home this season.

The Saints women’s basketball team owned the second-highest home winning percentage (.900) in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference entering the final two weeks of a regular season with playoff implications at stake.

But a recurring theme – sluggish offense – appeared again Thursday in the Saints’ 54-44 loss to Seattle Pacific. Unlike last weekend’s losses at Simon Fraser and Western Washington in which the offense improved in the second half, SMU lacked an offensive rhythm all 40 minutes against the Falcons.

The Saints (14-10, 8-7 GNAC) shot a dismal 24.6 percent (15 of 61) from the floor, and despite 15 offensive rebounds had just five second-chance points and nine points from its bench.

Coach Tim Healy called it an “inexplicable lack of focus” by the Saints, who surpassed their previous season-low set in a 71-54 loss to Pacific Lutheran on Nov. 30.

“It was all us,” Healy said. “We couldn’t catch the ball, we couldn’t pass the ball and we certainly couldn’t shoot the ball. … It was absolutely horrid. We missed everything.

“We just handed them a game on our home court.”

And yet, trailing by just five at halftime (24-19), the defensive pressure – what SMU is known for – kept the Saints in it, getting 20 points off 25 SPU turnovers.

“Defensively, we did everything we had to do to win the game,” Healy said.

A series of three consecutive 3-pointers by Jori Skorpik, Brooke Pauleson and Angela Gelhar tied the score at 28-all, but the Saints never grabbed the lead. SPU (16-7, 9-6) used a 10-2 run of its own to pull ahead 38-30, and then moved to its first double-digit lead at 43-32.

Junior guard Suzanna Ohlsen scored almost half of the Falcons’ points; she finished with a game-high 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting. Katie Benson, the GNAC’s second-highest scorer at 20 points per game, was held to nine. A pair of Ohlsen free throws gave SPU its largest lead at 52-38 with 3:13 remaining.

No SMU player finished in double figures; Gelhar and Chelsea Haskey each had nine.

At 8-7 in conference, the Saints are in sixth place with three games remaining. A win Saturday against first-place and No. 25-ranked Montana State-Billings (20-5) would go a long way toward earning the Saints a top-six spot in the conference tournament, to be held March 5-8 at Marcus Pavilion.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 southsoundsports

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