Knights defeat rival but drop two road games

The Gannon University women’s basketball team lost back-to-back games for the first time since Feb. 19, 2011.

The Knights, ranked 25th in the nation with a 3-2 record, were on the road for three consecutive games to end November.  After beating its rival Mercyhurst in a close game Saturday, Nov. 22, Gannon headed out of state to play Ashland (Ohio) and Grand Valley State (Michigan).

A trip to Ashland – a Division II women’s basketball powerhouse and 2013 NCAA national champion – came up short as Gannon lost a close game 80-73.  Another solid low-post performance by senior Nettie Blake wasn’t enough as Ashland outscored Gannon 46-24 in points in the paint.

Blake had a solid 16 points and 10 rebounds followed by senior Brittany Batts’ 14 points and senior Mollie Sebald’s 13 points.

But it wasn’t the offense second-year coach Jim Brunelli was concerned with.

“The biggest thing we took away from the loss is that our defense needs to be a lot better,” Brunelli said.  “We need to come together more as a team and play better defense.

“This has to be our backbone because good teams can still win even if they shoot poorly.”

A national holiday and four days later and the Knights were headed to western Michigan to play a prior conference rival in Grand Valley State.  The Lakers (3-0) lead the all-time series 12-6 and have won eight of the last 10 meetings.  Gannon and Grand Valley were previous conference foes during the Knights’ 13-year residence in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (GLIAC).

The Lakers jumped out to a quick first-half lead over the Knights and never looked back.  After taking the lead 50 seconds into the contest, Grand Valley State never relinquished it.  With a halftime lead of 51-29, Grand Valley State played Gannon about even throughout the second half to a 95-72 win.  It was the largest margin of defeat for the Gannon women’s basketball team since the 2010-11 season.

Gannon (3-2, 2-0) had four players in double figures led by Mollie Sebald’s 15 points and seven rebounds.  Blake collected her 22nd career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

But Grand Valley State shot an astounding 60 percent from the floor and 65 percent from beyond the arc.

“They came in shooting the ball extremely well and what we did, didn’t even slow them down,” Brunelli said.  “They were a very active and guard-oriented team and that presented some mismatches.”

A few early season losses can often times be good for a team as it helps teach in the most painful of ways.  The Knights and their head coach are proven to be in the upper echelon of Division II women’s college basketball and that experience should help them get back on track.

“I feel that we learned from our mistakes and we will most definitely improve our team as a result of these last few games,” Brunelli said.

The Knights continue the season at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Hammermill Center as they face the Clarion Golden Eagles.


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