Women’s Basketball: Carollo’s bunch now winners of nine straight

 

Feb. 5, 2014

By Paul Bressler

The UW-Whitewater women’s basketball team is preparing for a war against the formally ranked Pointers in a rematch from earlier in the season, at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5, at Stevens Point.

The last time these two teams met on Dec. 11 the ’Hawks won 80-69 on their home floor. There was a small amount of retribution after the Pointers defeated the ’Hawks for the WIAC tournament championship in the Kachel Gymnasium.

Head coach Keri Carollo does not put too much stock in the last time the two teams met but fully understands the rivalry.

Keri-CarolloWEB

Keri Carollo

“It’s been so long since we last played them,” Carollo said. “We expect a close game. They’re our rivals, so it’s always really intense. Both programs have had quite a bit of success over the years. It will make for a really fun and exciting game.”

UW-Stevens Point, who fell out of D3hoops.com’s top 25 two weeks ago, looks to defend their home court and pick up a victory against the No. 11-ranked Warhawks to help propel themselves back into the top 25.

The Pointers also will look to duplicate their success from the 3-point line. The last time these two teams met, the team made eight 3-pointers on 14 attempts. They also out rebounded the ’Hawks by four, including seven offensive boards.

Carollo and her staff look to make the proper adjustments in order to ensure her team is locked in defensively this time around. She recently noted at first it was not one of the team’s strengths, but she has been preaching defense as of late and is encouraged by the recent improvement on the defensive end. Senior point guard Kaitlyn Thill agrees with her coach’s assessment and looks to set the tone early.

“Defense isn’t always our strong suit, but we have to come out right away and be ready to go,” Thill said. “It’s a big hype game, and everybody wants to win it. I have to come out just encouraging our girls and lead our team on defense.”

Kaitlyn ThillWEB

Kaitlyn Thill

Offensively, the ’Hawks will try to duplicate the success they had from behind the arc on Dec. 11. The team made seven threes on only 11 attempts. The 64 percent mark trumped Stevens Point’s 57 percent.

A victory will likely mean not only holding junior forward Kaitlyn Jacobs in check, but also getting senior forward Amy Mandrell going early. Jacobs recorded 15 points and eight rebounds in the loss, while Mandrell only played 11 minutes.

Before the showdown, the No. 11-ranked Warhawks had to earn a hard-fought victory on the road against UW-Stout, 81-60.

Saturday afternoon’s victory is the team’s 19th-consecutive WIAC victory dating back to last season.

A back-and-forth game ensued right from the opening tip. Sophomore guard Abbie Reeves sparked a run and broke open the game when she connected on a 3-pointer to tie the game at 14.

A 20-6 run would follow from the 10:03 mark. The Blue Devils held strong and scored the final six points of the half, but the ’Hawks led 31-26 at the break.

UW-Stout was far more efficient than the ’Hawks in the first half. The Blue Devils shot 41 percent from the field compared to the ’Hawks’ 31 percent. The difference in the first half was the Warhawks’ ability to get to the line.

The team got to the charity stripe eight times, and converted on seven free throws.

UW-Stout, determined not to fold, fought hard to keep the gap within 10 points for a majority of the game. The Blue Devils pulled within six as late as the 7:15 mark but couldn’t narrow the gap beyond that.

The ’Hawks responded by clamping down on defense, and only allowing one field goal in the final seven minutes of the game. The team also went on a 20-5 offensive run to seal the victory.

Carollo’s team shot 48 percent from the field and fought their way to the charity stripe 18 times in the second half. Thill was a big reason for the turn around. She racked up 14 points and six steals in the half.

“We started to play our game in the second half,” Thill said. “We played together, and it was definitely a lot more fun.”

The ’Hawks recovered from a poor-shooting first half and shot a respectable 40 percent from the floor. The Blue Devils outshot the ’Hawks, at least in terms of percentage, 41 to 40 percent.

The differences in the game were rebounding and free throws. The ’Hawks out-rebounded the Devils 46-32, which allowed the ’Hawks to get up nine more shots. The ’Hawks ended the night with 26 trips to the line.

The team made 22 of them, emphasizing why they rank 11th in the nation in free throw percentage.

The ’Hawks continue to stay perfect at 11-0 in league play while improving to 17-3 this season. Conversely, the Blue Devils have fallen to 7-13 and 3-8 in the conference.

Thill had 16 points on an efficient 5-7 shooting, including two buckets from the 3-point line. Thill also had the stat of the game by recording seven steals.

“She won the game for us,” Carollo said. “At one point I think she had two or three steals in a row.”

Mandrell recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Mary Merg continued her struggles shooting the ball, only connecting on three of her 13 attempts.

Despite the shooting woes, Merg still put in a solid game with 10 points, eight assists and five boards to help lead the team to a convincing win. The eight assists tied a season-high for the team.

Senior center Kristen Ruchti provided a spark off the bench for the ’Hawks with 17 points and six rebounds. Ruchti led all scorers as she continues to acclimate herself with the team.

The UW-Parkside transfer was not available for the first match-up against UW-Stevens Point. Carollo is looking forward to the difference Ruchti can provide.

“Point has some really good post players,” Carollo said. “Hopefully she [Ruchti] is going to help us out with that, and I know she can.”

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