Saturday’s Skyhawks weren’t Friday’s Skyhawks, even if the results nearly were the same.
The Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team barely missed clipping No. 13 Grand Canyon University on Saturday, falling 68-62, but FLC head coach Jason Flores said the Skyhawks played with an energy in Phoenix that very much was lacking in Friday’s 69-61 loss to Crookston and one that will translate into Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference wins.
“I think in a nutshell (the women) felt the way they played was way different than (Friday),” Flores said. “They got after it. We played with an intensity that we have to play with.”
Fort Lewis (1-3) tied the score at 62-all on a Christie Groh basket with 1:13 to go after trailing the Antelopes by high single digits for most of the second half.
Grand Canyon’s Maylinn Smith hit a 3-pointer on the transition, though, then the Skyhawks turned the ball over with 30 seconds to go trying to force a scoring opportunity, and the Antelopes ran out the clock on free throws for the final.
“That was a tough turnaround when we had it tied up,” Flores said. “We were right there with our chances. That effort and the way we played, that is going to lead to success this year.”
The strong point for the Skyhawks was in sticking to their game plan and the FLC system against an aggressive and athletic Grand Canyon team.
Although the Skyhawks had 15 turnovers, that still was better than the 22 against the less steal-happy Crookston.
Fort Lewis shot 43 percent from the floor and 43 percent from beyond the arc on 56 total attempts.
“Our shooting percentages were better because we took care of the ball and played within our system, and that leads to better shots,” Flores said.
It also led to a balanced shooting spread.
Ashley Kuchar led the team with 17 points, Katerina Garcia had 13 and Erika Richards 12.
“We were pretty balanced, which, you know, is what we have to be,” Flores said.
Those percentages easily would’ve been enough to chew up the Antelopes if it weren’t for Grand Canyons second-chance shots, which led to 71 overall attempts.
Grand Canyon had 48 total rebounds – 22 on the offensive side – compared to 30 from the Skyhawks.
Judy Jones made up 12 of those Antelopes rebounds, enough for a double-double with her game-high 25 points.
“They were much bigger and more athletic,” Flores said. “Being technically better at rebounding is something we have to get better at.
“That’s too big of a difference (in rebounding), and that allowed them to take ... more total attempts, and that’s a hard thing to overcome when you’re on the road.”
The road games don’t end here, but if the intensity level doesn’t either, Flores said he’s optimistic about the beginning of RMAC conference play beginning with UC-Colorado Springs at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in Colorado Springs.
“If we can take this and use it as a springboard then we’re going to be OK heading into conference,” Flores said.