The Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team felt an unfamiliar feeling Friday night, as the No. 13 Skyhawks tasted their second defeat of the season with a 53-48 loss to Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota.
The Yellow Jackets overcame a rough first half and dominated FLC defensively in the second half – they held the Skyhawks to just 14 second-half points – to score the victory.
“Normally when someone on the team isn’t feeling it someone else steps up and is able to score, but tonight was a rare night when we couldn’t,” FLC head coach Jason Flores said. “We just didn’t shoot it well. And that happens, especially on the road. We struggled offensively, and when the shots stopped falling we got really tentative. ... We just didn’t find a way to win tonight.”
FLC’s second half performance was foreshadowed by a scoring lull in the final few minutes of the first quarter.
After the Skyhawks (15-2, 9-2 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) jumped out to an early 12-6 lead with 4 minutes, 44 seconds left in the first, the Yellow Jackets (12-4, 6-4 RMAC) outscored FLC 11-6 the rest of the quarter.
FLC got back on track in the second quarter and held Black Hills to six points in the quarter for a 34-23 halftime lead.
The second half was one to forget for the Skyhawks. FLC was held to just two points through the first seven minutes of the third quarter. With the FLC offense struggling, Black Hills State chipped away at the deficit and took a 41-40 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We were more focused (in the first half),” Flores said. “It’s not like (Black Hills State) did anything different, it was just a matter of we were more locked in in the first half, and in the second half we got a little rattled.”
The offensive woes continued in the fourth for FLC, and the Yellow Jackets pushed their lead to six points with a little less than two minutes left in the game.
The Skyhawks were held to 29.3 percent shooting and made 5-of-24 3-pointers in the loss – entering the game FLC had attempted an average of 14.9 3s per game.
“We were tentative. We were struggling offensively and settled for those shots,” Flores said of the unusual amount of 3-point attempts.
The Skyhawks were also without senior guard Briana Clah for most of the game – she rolled an ankle in the first quarter and never returned – and standout freshman Vivian Gray spent long stretches on the bench with foul trouble. FLC also struggled from the free-throw line, as the team made just 9-of-16 attempts.
Astrea Reed led the Skyhawks with 16 points, nine rebounds and four steals. The nine rebounds matched Alyssa Yocky for a team high. Vivian Gray added 13 points and a team-high four assists.
The Yellow Jackets shot 39.2 percent from the field and were anchored by Rachel Erickson’s 20 points and five assists. Katie Messler dominated the boards for Black Hills State and finished the night with 12 rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end. She also had three steals and a blocked shot.
FLC missed a chance to get into a tie for first place in the RMAC, as CSU-Pueblo (11-5, 9-1 RMAC) lost 85-82 in overtime at Metro State (11-5, 7-3 RMAC) on Friday night.
The Skyhawks will play South Dakota School of Mines (11-5, 6-4 RMAC) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Rapid City, South Dakota.