Women’s basketball continues torrid pace with pair of road wins

Ellen Kett (centre) had 22 points, 8 assists, and 4 steals in a 101-89 victory against Northwest Nazarene.

The past two games for SFU women’s basketball have been indicative of their entire season to date — finding different ways to win every night. Led by newly named Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) player of the week, Ellen Kett, the Clan defeated both Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene on the road. Their overall record improved to 14–2, and 5–1 within the conference.

The first game against Central Washington displayed SFU’s resilience and defensive prowess. After trailing 21–14 early in the second quarter, things could have gone south quickly. But the Clan scored 63 points the rest of the way, including 22 in both the third and fourth quarter to get SFU the victory. What made it more impressive was Central Washington is third in scoring defence, giving up an average of only 60.9 points per game.

“We changed our defence, partly to get them more thoughtfully into the game, which I was hoping would help us offensively,” said head coach Bruce Langford on the adjustments made early in the second quarter. “I thought that helped, and we started to take our shots. [. . .] Once we started to think a little bit, we got better. We started to work hard and took over the game.”

The second game was extremely high in scoring, with SFU putting up over 100 points for the first time in nearly two years. After scoring 33 points in the opening frame, a quarter in which Langford said the team “could have had 39,” SFU held their own against the second ranked Crusaders offence to win 101–89.

“There’s nobody who has that versatility to them. It’s huge for us. She makes everybody on the floor better”

– head coach Bruce Langford on point guard Ellen Kett

“We were shooting extremely well, running our offense very well — we were four for four from three,” explained Langford on the hot start. “We were very efficient, and that continued through most of the game. We tried to sub a lot, and it hurt us a bit defensively, but didn’t hurt us that much offensively.”

Ellen Kett led the way for the Clan in both contests. The senior from Melbourne, Australia did it all in both games, and has arguably been SFU’s most consistent player all season. She leads SFU in minutes played, three-point percentage, rebounding, and steals.

“I thought Ellen Kett was outstanding,” said Langford. “She did it all. She rebounded, took a couple of charges, she had some great assists. I thought she was very good.

“There’s nobody who has that versatility to them. It’s huge for us. She makes everybody on the floor better. She’s very consistent.”

If there’s an area that is in need of improvement, it’s the team’s three-point shooting percentage. Throughout the years, SFU has been one of, if not the best three-point shooting team in the GNAC. Last year, they were first; the year before, third. Ellen Kett last season had the second-best three-point shooting percentages in all of Division II women’s basketball, with 49.5%.

This year has been a different story. They’ve struggled mightily early on — the team was dead last up until very recently. However, with talented shooters such as Kett and Elisa Homer on the roster, SFU likely won’t be that low for long, according to Langford.

“It’s always been one of our strengths. We always take the most attempts or second-most attempts. But per percentage of baskets, we’re always leading,” he explained.

“This year, Ellen came out very slow from the three, Homer came out brutally from the three, and others did not shoot the three well. [. . .] But Ellen’s started to shoot the ball much better and Homer has started to shoot the ball much better. I think our percentage will come back to normal.”

Ellen Kett led all players in minutes played over the two games, averaging 35.5 minutes per contest. Elisa Homer was second with 28.5. But perhaps one player to watch, in terms of playing time, going forward is Tayla Jackson. After playing a season high 21 minutes against Cal Poly Pomona on November 26, she hasn’t had over 20 since, and only played six and nine minutes against Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene respectively.

Part of it is illness — she missed the game on December 29 against Western Oregon because of pneumonia and is still “coughing and hacking like mad,” according to Langford — but part of it is finding her role with her new team after transferring from Division I Cal Irvine.

“I think she’s coming along, but she’s struggling mentally and physically with her health and with her role — in terms of where does she fit, how does she get comfortable, [and] how does she get minutes to get comfortable,” said Langford.

“I think she’s putting too much pressure on herself. I think she’s overly focused and concerned about making mistakes and trying too hard almost. She has a style of play that should have more success than what she’s having this year.”

THIS WEEK: SFU plays the first two games of a four-game homestand against Seattle Pacific and Saint Martin’s, both starting at 7 p.m. in the West Gym. The game against Seattle Pacific is likely to be the tougher test, as the Falcons have one of the stingiest defences in the GNAC. They allow only 52 points per game on average, one of only two teams in the conference to average under 60 points.

“I think one of things is we have to read what they’re doing at any given time of how they’re switching screens and handling screens, and how smart we are playing off of that,” said Langford on how to break down their defence. “Executing will be crucial.”

And although Saint Martin’s is something of a middling team — they’re not in the top half in most major statistical categories and are ninth in the GNAC — they are the top three-point defending team in the conference, something that could challenge an SFU team that, as coach Langford explained, loves to shoot the three.