TACOMA, Wash.—The Puget Sound women's basketball team took an early lead thanks tough defensive pressure in the opening half and never looked back, cruising to a 80-52 victory over Willamette Friday night at Memorial Fieldhouse.
Taylor Jones jumpstarted the Logger defense early, snatching the ball from WU's Alex Wert at the 16:59 mark in the first half. Emily Sheldon finished the play with a layup five seconds later, giving the Loggers an early 6-1 lead. The Bearcats hit three of their next four field goal attempts, however, pulling within three after Jones added five more points for the Loggers.
With the score 13-10 in favor of the home team, the Loggers turned up the pressure. They scored 10 consecutive points in nearly three minutes while forcing the Bearcats into two turnovers and three missed shots. Alexa Beeson of the Bearcats hit a three pointer at the 10:14 mark to break up the run, but Allie Wyszynski kept up the defensive pressure by blocking WU's next attempt. After Wyszynski's block, the Loggers scored 16 straight to take a 39-13 lead with 6:19 left. Amanda Forshay scored eight of her 10 first half points in that stretch to give the Loggers a 26 point advantage.
In all during that 7 minute, 44 second run, the Loggers outscored the Bearcats 26-3. The Puget Sound defense forced three turnovers and 11 missed shots by Willamette, and the Loggers grabbed 13 rebounds during that stretch as well.
After the run ended, the Logger defense still shut down Willamette for a bit longer, holding them without a successful field goal from 10:14 to 2:24 when Beeson hit another three-ball to put the score at 42-18 Puget Sound. The Bearcats netted two more field goals in the half while the Loggers added three more points in the final 1:24, and the two teams headed into the break with the score at 45-22 in favor of Puget Sound.
The Loggers didn't rest on the healthy margin, either. They scored the first four points of the half on layups by Katy Ainslie and Forshay, and then they scored nine of the next 11 points to take a 32-point lead at 58-26 before three minutes had gone by in the second half.
The game slowed down a bit after that, but the Loggers reached their largest lead of the contest six and a half minutes later when Erin Stumbaugh nailed a layup to go ahead 36 at 69-33. Willamette drained two three pointers in the next 2:15 to come within 30 at 71-41, but Puget Sound scored the next five points to push their lead back out to 35.
The Bearcats scored nine points in the final nine minutes, but the Loggers held on easily for an 80-52 win. The win the Loggers' 18th consecutive victory over Willamette, and the 28-point margin of victory was the second largest of the year for the Loggers. Puget Sound beat Concordia by 29, 90-61, on Nov. 26 in Portland.
"Our focus this week was rebounding, and we put together two good defensive and rebounding games," said Logger head coach Loree Payne. "We out-rebounded both opponents by 10 or more, and that was a focus for us. I thought our defensive energy was great and I was excited to be able to get everyone in and see minutes. They work so hard in practice and earn those minutes."
The Loggers emptied their bench in the victory as 16 different players saw game action. Four different Loggers scored in double figures as Forshay and Wyszynski netted 16 points each and both Sheldon and Ainslie added 10. Ainslie also led all players with 10 rebounds to tally her first double-double of the season. Katie Kalugin led the Bearcats with 15 points, while Daena Mau grabbed six rebounds for the visitors.
As a team, the Loggers shot 55.7% from the field, hitting 40.0% of their three pointer attempts and 66.7% of shots from the charity stripe. They also grabbed 45 rebounds, their third-highest mark of the season, and tied a season-high with 22 assists. Defensively, Puget Sound held Willamette to a 30.4% field goal percentage and 32.0% from beyond the arc.
The Loggers (10-5, 3-3 NWC) will now hit the road for four games. The Loggers kick off their longest road trip of the season Friday, Jan. 24, with a 6:00 p.m. contest at Pacific. They close off the weekend Saturday, Jan. 25 at George Fox.