The University of Calgary Dinos women's basketball team boosted their winning streak to three last weekend, crushing the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns in two matches Nov. 17-18. The Dinos' third-ranked offence fired in 75 points Friday, sinking a lethargic 57-point performance by Lethbridge. The 'Horns kept it close on Saturday night, but Calgary snuffed out their last minute life, recording an 80-71 victory.
Saturday, the Dinos scraped by the 'Horns, finishing off their defiant opponents with flawless free-throw shooting in the final two minutes. Clutch baskets from the line have been a huge factor in all three of the Dinos' wins, and those points have propelled them to first place in league free-throw percentage. Former Lethbridge resident and current Calgary forward Courtney Coyle is the best on the team in that department, leading all league shooters with a sparkling .909 shooting percentage. Calgary has repeatedly punished foul-happy teams by nailing game-clinching free throws late in the game.
"We try to wear other teams down," said Dinos head coach Shawnee Harle after Friday night's decisive win. "It's an attitude more than a skill."
Dino guard Becky Heninger showed off plenty of that winning attitude Friday, stirring up a dull-looking Dinos team with her energetic and colourful play in the third quarter. The red machine gained momentum soon after a play in which Heninger was steamrolled by a Lethbridge player.
"I [missed a shot] but didn't dwell on it right away," recounted Heninger, Calgary's smallest dinosaur at 5'5". "First thing I thought was to get back on D. I knew she was coming, [but] I didn't know she was that close. I just had to stand my ground and take it. It took forever for the refs to call it. [After], everyone was pumped."
Heninger sunk her two free throws to put the Dinos up 54-43, and they never looked back, giving up only three more points on their way to a comfortable 75-57 win.
"She brought some great energy to us," added Harle, chuckling about a play in the third quarter in which pint-sized Heninger won a loose ball by tossing a colossal Longhorn over her shoulder. "We fed off that energy."
Fourth-year kinesiology major Michelle Wilson also had an excellent weekend, leading the 'Saurs in the win Saturday with a 21-point, 11-rebound double-double.
After starting the season as zero-for-three herbivores, the Dinos are beginning to grow some teeth just in time to feast on the University of Alberta Pandas Nov. 24-25 in Edmonton. Harle is confident they will be ready for the fifth-ranked Pandas.
"We have to continue to improve, stay hungry, and if we can get it going on defence, we will be right there when it matters," said Harle.
Maybe defence will rub off on the Dinos up in Edmonton. The Dinos offence might be marginally better than the Pandas, but Edmonton is significantly better at keeping their opponents off the board. The Pandas are in the top five in points differential at 12.6, giving up an average of 58.8 points per game while scoring 71.4. Conversely, Calgary manages to outscore its opponents by an average of only three points, as they allow a whopping 73.9 while scoring about 76.9.
"The middle cut is killing us," said Heninger. "If we play defence like we should--by bumping the cutters--we'll be okay."