GEORGETOWN, Texas – Playing the No. 20-ranked team in women's NCAA Division III basketball, the Southwestern University Pirates' 66-53 loss to the University of Texas-Dallas Comets was full of teachable moments for a young team.
Cecily Woolfolk led the Pirates with 18 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 7-for-16 from the field and 4-for-7 from the free-throw line to post her first double-double of the season. First-year point guard Courtney Maas was the perimeter counterbalance to Woolfolk's inside work, scoring 12 points on eight shots, hitting 2-for-3 from deep.
On offense, the Pirates moved the ball diligently in the first half, using off-ball screens and quick ball reversals to tilt the defense away from Woolfolk, forever lurking on the weak side.
The Pirates' off-ball histrionics were simply window dressing designed to isolate Woolfolk on a fronting defender with no backline help, triggering a series of quick high-low entry passes over the top of the defense as Woolfolk sealed her defender for easy layups.
Keeping the Comets' defense honest was the strong handle of Maas. For a first-year point guard, Maas shows poise when pressured the length of the court, bringing the ball up at her own pace.
Maas' ability to breakdown her defender kept the Comets' defense in a neutral alignment, punishing the slightest lull in on-ball attention with drives to the lane or 3-pointers off dribble handoffs.
Defensively, the Pirates showed slightly less patience. The instincts to help are commendable but the experience for when and where still lacking at times.
In the first half, the Pirates loaded the strong side to prevent dribble penetration but at times overreacted, sending one defender too many to maintain their defensive integrity, giving up open 3-pointers or allowing weakside players to flash to the elbows or opposite blocks for wide open midrange jumpers, layups, or offensive rebounds.
Mia Spennato was the primary beneficiary of the Comets' inside-out game, scoring 11 points off the bench by hitting 3-for-6 from the 3-point line and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line.
Attention to detail on individual assignments was obvious, going under screens on non-shooters like UT-Dallas' Raenett Hughes, if sometimes too exaggerated; conceding wide open midrange jumpers or allowing one step too many towards the rim to surrender 12 points and seven rebounds on 5-for-9 shooting to Hughes.
The Comets also got a strong game from Katie Gunther, working inside with a series of spins and hook shots for 17 points and eight rebounds on 6-for-12 shooting, getting to the free-throw line for five attempts, hitting four.
Southwestern lost the battle on the margins, committing 16 turnovers and giving up 22 points off turnovers to UT-Dallas' 11 turnovers. The Pirates got to the free-throw line 17 times but hit only eight (47.1 percent) while UT-Dallas went 11-for-14 (78.6 percent).
More importantly, the Comets hit seven 3-pointers on 36.8 percent shooting while the Pirates shot just 3-for-12 from deep, unable to make UT-Dallas pay for loading up on post entry passes in the second half.
Still, there were positive moments, from the early offensive execution to the return of Tori Carraway, who grabbed seven rebounds in 11 minutes in her return from a knee injury suffered last season.
Naomi Brown was strong with the ball, hitting both her shots, forming a nice high-low combination with Woolfolk, and first-year backup point guard Cydnee Lester scored seven points on five shots in the third quarter, gaining confidence in her speed with the ball to blow past her defender and get to the rim before the defense could rotate.
With the loss, the Pirates drop to 0-3 this season while UT-Dallas remains undefeated at 3-0. Southwestern University will return to action this weekend in the TLU Classic in Seguin, Texas, playing Concordia Texas on Saturday, Nov. 24 at 1:00 p.m., and Hardin-Simmons University on Sunday, Nov. 25 at 1:00 p.m.