WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The University of the Pacific women’s basketball team had their seven-game winning streak shattered by the nation’s eighth-ranked team as Whitman escaped with the 57-47 win Tuesday night at Sherwood Athletic Center.
It was a low-scoring affair in Eastern Washington, as both teams posted season lows in scoring. Both teams couldn’t get going offensively, forcing both teams to slow the pace and make the most of every possession.
The Boxers (11-4, 5-1 NWC) suffered their first loss in Northwest Conference play. Pacific couldn’t find an offensive rhythm and posted its lowest point total (47) and field goal percentage (34%) of the season. The Rouge et Noir only managed three of their 20 three-point shots as they couldn’t make their open looks.
No. 8 Whitman (13-1, 5-0 NWC) also posted a season low in points in what was an extremely defensive and slow-paced affair. The Boxer defense held the Blues to just 35.7% from the field while forcing 11 turnovers. The hosts were led by Kaylie McCracken who scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Sydney Gray (Junior/Central Point, OR) was fantastic and won her first double-double of the season. The junior had 12 points and snatched 11 boards while defending very well against Whitman’s talented post players.
Brilie Kovaloff (Junior/Honolulu, HI) led the Boxers offensively with 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Rilee Award (Junior/Brea, CA) had nine points and knocked down a three-point shot.
How did it happen
Both teams struggled offensively in the first quarter. Each team committed five turnovers and shot less than 35% from the floor.
However, Camy Aguinaldo (Senior/Honolulu, HI) started early with a three-point play to put the Boxers on the board. Gray would follow by hitting a jumper from the free throw line to even the score at 5-5. The hosts regained the lead before Kovaloff dropped a runner into the paint to equalize again. Kaylee Brooke Manual (Junior/Nanakuli, HI) found space in the middle of the Blues area to score his first field goal attempt of the night. After a low-scoring quarter, Whitman led 10-9.
The Blues started the second period on a 7-0 streak to extend their lead. The Pacific finally ended its drought when Gray landed a deep three-point shot from the wing to put the Boxers back on track. Price put his name on the scoresheet by coming off a screen and knocking down a 15-footer before Kovaloff set one up to bring Pacific within three points. After three minutes, Price scored another field goal as the shot clock expired, but Whitman had six straight points to make it 26-18. Kovaloff added one more bucket before the halftime whistle and the Boxers would trail 26-20 at the break.
Whitman scored to start the second half, but Kovaloff responded with a three-point play to give the Boxers momentum. Price drained a wide-open triple before Kovaloff made a layup in transition to get into double digits and bring Pacific under two. The Boxers tied the score at 30-30 when Gray completed a solid drive to the basket and she then gave Pacific their first lead of the game by hitting a three from the corner. Aguinaldo returned to the action collecting a lay-up giving the Boxers a 35-34 lead going into the final 10 minutes. The Pacific defense was excellent in the third quarter, limiting the hosts to just eight points.
Kovaloff started the fourth quarter by fouling and making two free throws, giving it a three-point advantage. Manuel would grab an offensive rebound to put it back before Kovaloff poured in another bucket to extend the lead to five points and force a timeout from Whitman with 7:48 remaining in the contest. Whitman would close in on a point but Gray would respond with a left-handed lay-up.
The Blues regained the lead at 2:31 and would make a three on their next possession to make it a five-point advantage. It was part of Whitman’s 13-3 run to close the game as the Pacific were unable to close the gap and the nation’s eighth-ranked team escaped with the victory despite the Boxers’ best efforts.
- Whitman won the rebound battle 33-31.
- The contest featured five ties and two lead changes.
- Four boxers (Kovaloff, Gray, Price, Aguinaldo) played for 30 minutes.
The Boxers are looking to start another winning streak when they travel to Tacoma, Wash., on January 21 at 6 p.m. to face Puget Sound.