After suffering a heartbreaking one-point loss to No. 1 Emporia State University, Western again fell short against No. 5 Pittsburg State University Gorillas, losing 81-71.
The loss dropped the Griffons to a five game losing streak, while the Gorillas win gave them an eight game win streak.
The game remained close midway through the first half, with the Griffons down 15-20, until the Gorillas began a 14-0 run to increase their lead to 34-15 with just over five minutes left before halftime. Although Western was able to stop the run, they went into half time with a substantial 15 point deficit as Pittsburg State led 44-29.
The Griffons finally struck a rhythm from behind the arc in the second half and stepped up their defense to shorten the Gorillas lead. Western was charged with a technical foul, but they were able to pull within seven points with a minute left in the game. They were not able to gain the lead and lost 81-71 although they out-scored Pittsburg State 42-37 in the second half.
A key to Western’s loss was their struggle to contain the Gorilla’s First Team All-American Lizzy Jeronimus, who went 7-of-11 from the field and 13-of-14 from the free-throw line for 27 total points.
Despite the loss, Griffon guard LaQuinta Jefferson made 12 of her 18 shots, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Griffons with 29 points.
Head coach Rob Edmisson has a solution to eliminating an early deficit and to avoid playing from behind.
“We need to stay away form that period where we play so poorly and dig such a deep hole that is it hard to get out of,” Edmisson said. “If we can maintain through that and play better through those gaps then we have a chance to win games.
Many players, including guard Ariana Novak, believe the team needs to work on fighting hard early in the game.
“We have to work on starting off the game fighting and pushing as hard as we can so we are not always playing from behind,” Novak said.
After losing close games to two top five teams in a row, the team understands that not playing hard for a full 40 minutes will result in a loss according to guard Chelsea Dewey.
“It is the [most fun] right now when you are playing the best teams in the nation, but it is hard taking a loss like that,” Dewey said, “We do it to ourselves when we are not getting stops and not playing a full 40 minutes of basketball.”
The Griffons have many chances to end the losing streak, including a home game against the University of Central Missouri on Wednesday, Jan. 14, before going on the road to play Southwest Baptist University on Saturday, Jan. 17.