Women’s basketball wins final tune-up for season

Originally published November 12, 2010

The women’s basketball team did some fine tuning in their final exhibition game of the season, beating last year’s NCAA Division III champion Washington University 66-53 Saturday.

“Washington University is a very well-coached team,” coach Paula Buscher said. “They’ve got a very rich history with their women’s basketball.”

The tenacious play of junior Mackenzie Westcott separated the Braves from the Bears.  She  led the offense with 17 points and two assists. 

“I thought Mack played very well. She played within herself, there’s nothing I can be critical of Mack in that game,” Buscher said. “The thing I love the most is the energy she played the game with and stayed consistent with that from tip off through the end of the game. It’s what you want to see at this point of the season.”

Westcott’s steal nine minutes into the second half sparked a 10-1 run, putting the game out of reach for Washington.

Instead of taking the safe approach and calling a time out to slow the run, Buscher kept her team on the floor for some valuable crunch time practice.

“We had a lot of good shots in the first half that we didn’t drop,” Buscher said. “I just let them figure it out. I had the mentality going in that they were going to have to learn from these situations, they’re going to have to feel the tide shifting in the game and control it.”

At halftime, Buscher looked to her lone senior, Raisa Taylor, for results in the second half.

“I challenged her at halftime, I didn’t think we were where we needed to be,” Buscher said. “I really felt she stepped up in the second half.  I think she’s got to be an impact player on both sides of the ball.”

Taylor responded, getting a majority of her 10 points and 10 rebounds in the second half. Beyond the double-double, Taylor dished out four assists and was key to the defensive clampdown that, combined with Taylor’s and Westcott’s offense, sealed the victory for the Braves.

“Defense is one of our main goals, to have the defensive intensity for 40 minutes,” Buscher said. “We might have gone up and down with it, but in the second half, we picked that up to another level. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re heading in the right direction. We’re happy about that. Not satisfied, but happy in the direction.”

With the defensive resurgence in the second half, the game was not competitive for the rest of regulation. The Braves used their size advantage to finish the game mostly in the paint and raised their post percentage to a staggering 64 percent.

The Braves finished their preseason schedule 2-0 and were able to play many different combinations of players versus Washington, getting playing time for 10 of their 13 players.

“We looked at different combinations than we did in the first preseason game,” Buscher said. “I thought we saw the difference, we saw what we did in practice take shape on the court.”

The Braves will face the Butler Bulldogs at the arena Saturday afternoon to kickoff the regular season. Coach Buscher knows the performance last Saturday is only the beginning of a long season ahead for the Braves.

“Now you need to be ready and prepared to take the next step,” she said.