SALT LAKE CITY – Still without the services of its starting point guard, the Lewis-Clark State College women’s basketball team ran into trouble in the opening game of the Westminster Classic on Thursday afternoon. The Warriors, outpaced 19-8 in the first six minutes, fell to the College of Idaho 75-43.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” said LCSC head coach Brian Orr. “We know we have a great deal to work on, and it begins with the fundamentals of the game on both ends of the floor.”
LCSC, ranked tied for 15th in the NAIA preseason poll, was plagued by 30 turnovers, including 16 in the first half which resulted in a 43-24 deficit at the break.
To make matters worse for the Warriors, the Coyotes, ranked No. 25 in the NAIA Division II preseason poll, shot a solid 42.9 percent from the field and were 8-of-18 from the outside.
The loss moves the Warriors to 0-2 on the year, while the College of Idaho improves to 2-0. The Coyotes topped Frontier Conference member Montana Tech 68-64 in their season opener.
Brittaney Niebergall, LCSC’s only returning starter from last year, did not play on Thursday as she remains sidelined with a knee injury she suffered during a practice on Nov. 1. The sophomore, who led the team in steals and assists last year, is expected to be out 10-14 days with what has been diagnosed as acute capsulitis.
Until Niebergall returns, the Warriors will be forced to look for ways to fill the void both on offense and defense.
Sophomore Shelby Barnes, who started in Niebergall’s absence, made 6-of-10 shot attempts, including 3-of-4 from the outside, and finished with a career-high 19 points to help carry some of the load, but the Coyotes’ pace was too much for the Warriors to handle.
“Shelby played real well. She was really aggressive and hit some shots, but to single out an individual right now is difficult because this is all about team. We’ve got to get better as a team.”
Led by eight steals by senior Katelin Shannon, the College of Idaho enjoyed a 20-6 advantage in steals. On offense, Felicity Jones and Dayna Drager led the Coyotes with 13 points apiece. Jones added six assists while Drager was 3-of-6 from 3-point territory.
LCSC managed to gain a 41-33 edge in rebounds and a 9-5 advantage in blocks, but nothing seemed to quell College of Idaho’s offense as it put the game out of reach with a 12-0 run midway through the second half.
“Give them a lot of credit. They shot lights out against us,” said Orr. “But there aren’t going to be any pity parties. We have to keep getting better every single possession.”
Besides Barnes, no other Warrior scored more than six points, though each Warrior to step on the floor did collect at least one rebound. LCSC’s Laurenna Plourd and College of Idaho’s Laura Geis, who had a game-high 11 rebounds, led with three blocks apiece.
Thursday’s result marks the first time the Warriors have fallen to the College of Idaho in program history. LCSC, which last faced the Coyotes in 2008, now leads the series 9-1.
The Warriors will continue the three-day, six-team tournament with a game against The Master’s College on Friday and one versus No. 12 Biola University on Saturday. Both contests will begin at 1 p.m., Pacific.
“There are some things that we learned about ourselves today, and now we just got to get better.”