By AHMED MALIK
On a day when the University of Mary Washington women’s basketball team was struggling to shoot from the field, they showed why their defense is ranked number one in the nation among Division III teams.
The Lady Eagles made up for shooting just 35 percent from the field and a mere 1-13 from beyond the arc by stifling Salisbury with their trademark defense, holding the Sea Gulls to a season-low 23 points, including just seven points in the first half.
Freshman Aubrey Howland led Mary Washington with 11 points and nine rebounds, while senior Katie Wimmer chipped in with 10 points and four steals. UMW used its suffocating defense to jump out to an early lead and never looked back, leading by 15 or more the entirety of the second half.
“It proves how even when your team isn’t shooting great from the field, you can still win games with great defense,” junior center Carol Dye said. “That’s something that coach emphasizes to us: shots wont always fall, but defense is always there.”
And emphasized it was, as the UMW defense held Salisbury to just 17.8 percent shooting from the field and forced 30 Sea Gull turnovers. The Eagles were able to be aggressive on defense without fouling, giving Salisbury only six free throw attempts in the game.
“Having a full week of practice before Saturday’s game, we really focused on getting our defensive rotations down and communicating more on defense,” Wimmer said. “I think Saturday’s game was a good defensive game for us, our shots weren’t really falling so having defense back on point was key and reminded us how important getting in position and communicating is.”
In the two games versus Salisbury this year, the Eagles have won by an average margin of 31 points. For the season, the Eagles are beating their opponents by an average of almost 23 points per game.
The dominance has propelled head coach Deena Applebury’s team to a No. 8 national ranking as well as an undefeated record. Saturday’s win helped the Eagles improve to 21-0 (12-0 in CAC play) while Salisbury fell to 8-4 in conference play and 11-9 overall.
With only four games left before the conference tournament begins, the Eagles are staying focused on the daily tasks of getting better and preparing for the next game.
“This season, one of our goals has really been to take it one day at a time so I think that’s a big part of our success,” Wimmer said. “These next two practices leading up to Wednesday’s game we’ll continue to focus on the little details and work on perfecting the things we haven’t yet.”
The Eagles traveled to Hood College last night in another CAC matchup, but the game ended too late for results to be included in this issue. The last time these two teams met, UMW prevailed with a 66-35 victory. Hood is currently on the opposite spectrum as UMW, with the Blazers sitting at the bottom of the conference with a 6-15 overall record (2-11 in CAC play).