Arizona Western women’s basketball wasted zero time proving it was the better team on Saturday night against Colorado Northwestern inside “The House.”
The Matadors rattled off a 16-1 run to begin the game, using their defense to generate several fast break and easy opportunities at the other end.
En route to their third victory in four days, coach Patrick Cunningham discussed the Matadors’ (3-2 overall) game plan to provide early momentum in their 69-39 win.
“We just wanted to pressure the ball and create a fast pace,” he said. “We were just trying to get more comfortable playing with a bit more speed. They were a little nervous last night, so just tried to speed the game up and get them to not think as much.”
Led by Harria Mendoza’s five steals, AWC’s defense stifled every offensive attack from the Spartans (0-5 overall). The Matadors’ defense generated 15 turnovers to build a 23-point lead at halftime and continued to pressure Colorado Northwestern the entire second half.
AWC had tremendous success running the 2-3 zone defensively and forced the Spartans to attempt a high number of difficult shots. The Spartans made 3-of-22 attempts (13.6%) in the first half and never looked comfortable trying to orchestrate their scheme.
The Matadors finished the game with 28 forced turnovers and produced 33 points off the Spartans miscues.
“That was the plan,” Cunningham said. “To trap and rotate defensively and take advantage of the opportunities. It worked out pretty good for us. When you get to see a team play the night before, you’re able to come up with a good game plan.”
Offensively, AWC generated great looks routinely in the first half, but struggled knocking them down. The Matadors connected on just 13-of-35 shots (37.1%) in the opening 20 minutes.
The Matadors would make 15-of-31 shots (48.4%) in the second half and build some momentum offensively, but Cunningham noted that his team has struggled finishing shots this season.
“That’s where we are struggling,” he said. “We’re struggling with our percentages. We struggle at the free throw line. We get the open looks, just have to become a bit more confident. All we can do is generate the shots and sooner or later they’ll go in. We’re hoping they’ll start falling in.”
Hanah Sims, on the other hand, was the Matadors’ only double-digit scorer with 14 points. The freshman from Gila Ridge went 4-for-7 beyond the arc and accounted for 57% of the makes from deep.
“There are folks that can shoot threes and make the threes,” Cunningham said. “Then there are the ones that don’t mind if they miss one and maintain the same confidence for the next one. When it’s appropriate, she’ll take the shot. She’s got that skill set.”
The Matadors will have a much-needed break, returning to the floor on Nov. 20 at home against Central Arizona to begin conference play.