The Occidental women’s basketball team fell to No. 12 University of St. Thomas (Minn.) in its first home game of the season. A strong second half was not enough to help the team catch up to the Tommies, who maintained a significant lead on the Tigers throughout the game and closed out a 64-49 victory.
The game began with the Tommies sinking their first points within 30 seconds of play. A three-pointer by point guard Tiffany Kho (sophomore) finally got the Tigers on the board with 13:26 to go in the first half.
Multiple players contributed offensively for the Tigers in the first half, but the squad trailed 41-20 at the break.
The Tigers found more offensive success in the second half. The young squad, which has nine first-years on the roster, shot more efficiently from the field at 39.3 percent—up from 17.4 in the first—and eventually cut St. Thomas’s lead to 57-45 with just over five minutes left in the game.
Kho was impressed by her teammates, who kept their spirits high throughout the game despite the point deficit.
“We didn’t hang our heads low even when we were down by 21 at halftime, which showed how composed and mentally ready we were for the second half,” Kho said via email. “There are definitely things we need to work on, but I loved how my team bounced back and came out fired up and energized in the second half.”
There were several bright spots on the court, despite the lopsided score. Occidental outshot the Tommies from the free throw line, forced more turnovers and scored more fast-break points.
Guard Ashton Reid (senior) led the Tigers in scoring with 12 points, followed closely by Kho, who added 11 points and two assists. Forward Kendahl Wallis-Lang (first-year) cleaned the glass with a team-high nine rebounds.
Going into the game Sunday night, Coach Anahit Aladzhanyan knew her team would be in for a challenge.
“When I scheduled with St. Thomas, I didn’t know they were that good, but when we play games like this, it’s experience,” Aladzhanyan said. “My team gets to see what it is like playing a top team in the nation, and especially since we are a young team, we needs these kinds of experiences.”
This season, Aladzhanyan said she wants the team to fully incorporate their many new players and develop a cohesive unit. Therefore, practices are run with patience and positivity. The team has focused on staying in the moment and developing mental toughness and good team chemistry.
Stefanie Young (senior) implemented some of those mental training skills to keep her focus sharp during the game.
“I prepared for the game by doing breathing and visualization exercises and just focused on the game and tried not to let any other distractions affect me in any way,” Young said.
Wallis-Lang said that the team’s second half performance was an indication that the they have potential for a postseason run.
“As a team, if we continue to play together as we did in the second half, work on our defensive intensity, and control our offense, we can accomplish a lot,” Wallis-Lang said.