The Webster University women’s basketball team built a 23-12 lead a little more than 11 minutes into its game against Spalding University on Feb. 11. The Gorloks accomplished this by hitting four 3-pointers, making 9 of 16 shots from the field and turning the ball over five times.
But over the game’s next 28 minutes, 49 seconds, the Gorloks scored only 18 points as they made 5 of 38 field-goal attempts, turned the ball over 20 times and didn’t hit a 3-pointer. Spalding scored 42 of the game’s final 60 points, as the Golden Eagles rebounded from their slow start to beat Webster at home, 54-41, in Louisville, Ky.
“We started off hot and played a pretty good first half,” Webster coach Jordan Olufson said. “It was physical, it was tough on both sides and we had the lead in the second half. We just had two scoring droughts. And when I say scoring droughts, I mean we missed some bunnies, some layups.
“We just point-blank missed shots that we need to hit, and that was really the big difference. We got good shots; we just didn’t knock them down. And for whatever reason, it didn’t fall for us that day.”
With the loss, Webster dropped to 9-13 overall and 7-6 in St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. Spalding (12-11, 8-6) flip-flopped positions with Webster in the SLIAC standings — the Golden Eagles are fourth and Webster is fifth.
If the season ended today, the Gorloks would make the SLIAC tournament as the No. 4 seed. The top four regular-season finishers qualify for the SLIAC tournament, and Spalding will not be eligible for the tournament until next year.
MacMurray College (9-13, 4-9) and Greenville College (7-15, 4-9) have to win out and hope for three straight Webster losses to have a shot at overtaking the Gorloks in the SLIAC standings. All three teams have three games remaining in the regular season.
“It’s no different if you win the league or if you finish fourth,” Olufson said. “Because once you get in the tournament, (if) you lose you’re done. We were a three seed last year and it didn’t matter that Westminster went undefeated. It was the fact that we played well.
“I always tell our players, ‘Let’s get on a little run.’ Let’s win these next three, game-by-game, practice-by-practice, and let’s get on a run and see what happens. You never know. You go up there and we hit, they don’t — the basketball gods might give us one. You just go up there, you play the game, you try to get a little momentum on your side and see what happens.”
The Gorloks had the early momentum in their game against Spalding, but couldn’t hold on. After taking a 23-12 lead, Webster was outscored 11-4 the rest of the first half.
Webster held a 32-28 advantage with 16:27 to go in the second half, but Spalding took the game over from there. The Golden Eagles went on a 26-9 spurt to close out the game and hand Webster its third loss in four games.
The Gorloks turned the ball over 25 times while Spalding had 16 turnovers. Webster shot 25.9 percent from the field for the game and made only 4 of 23 shot attempts during the second half. The Gorloks hit 4 of 13 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
“(It) was probably one of our worst shooting games this season,” senior forward Loren Douglass said. “There’s no doubt our team is very talented both defensively and offensively. Almost every player who is out in a game has the ability to make plays and score. Where we struggle a little bit is just putting that together on a daily basis.”
Shooting-wise, the game was a contrast from when Webster beat Spalding 62-53 on Jan. 7 at Grant Gymnasium. In that contest, the Gorloks hit 44.7 percent of their field-goal attempts and 40 percent of their 3-point shots. The constant in both games was the turnovers — Webster had 22 and Spalding had 19 in their previous matchup.
“It’s kind of been an issue with us all year,” Olufson said. “Sometimes we see people, and we either see it too late or we want to make the ESPN pass. It could be a combination of desperation, lack of focus or Spalding making a play. Spalding is pretty good defensively — they’re physical, they jumped some passing lanes on us and they made some plays.”
The Gorloks will try to bounce back from the loss when they host Greenville on Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. Webster then travels to MacMurray for a Feb. 18 game at 1 p.m. Webster closes out the regular season on Feb. 21, when it hosts SLIAC rival Fontbonne University (15-9, 12-3) at 6 p.m.