Ninety-six hours after one of the best wins in Carroll’s program history, the Saints struggled.
Carroll never found a rhythm as No. 22 Montana Western thwarted the Saints 61-43 on Tuesday at the PE Center.
“We had open looks and we made them,” Western coach Lindsay Woolley said. “It sounds stupid, but that’s sometimes what it boils down to is you make shots.”
Carroll (16-9, 6-7 Frontier Conference) mustered only 11 points in the first half. Perhaps most telling, the Saints shot 25 percent from the field for the game.
The first quarter started with both teams shooting abysmally from the field. The Saints finished the quarter 1 of 10, and Western (19-5, 8-5) hardly bettered that by going 3 of 13.
The Saints generated quality looks on offense, but could never finish as Carroll adjusted to Western’s defense, which packed the paint.
“I thought there was a little hesitation,” Saints coach Rachelle Sayers said. “I think you attribute that to Western. I thought their defense stalled us a little bit. I thought we were a little bit hesitant because they were sagging a lot. Kids weren’t sure if they wanted to step up and take that first shot."
The Saints did not get their fifth point until 7:13 remained in the second quarter, following nearly 10 minutes of scoreless basketball. Carroll found quality shots, both open jumpers and attempts from the paint, but a hint of indecision kept the offense out of sorts.
Hashley got an offensive rebound and a put-back layup with 4:45 left in the second quarter to break the Saints’ field goal spell.
Dean also got the Saints’ offense going by hitting the offensive boards. As the Saints struggled to find consistency on the offensive end, the Bulldogs took advantage. Aniese Palmore found lanes to the hoop and knocked down two 3-pointers, scoring 12 points in the first half.
“I wouldn’t fault our effort,” Sayers said.” I thought the kids played hard. I thought they played to win. Hannah Dean takes five charges. We get 21 O-boards. We have 65 shots up. It was just a matter of just couldn’t find any rhythm offensively. We were taking good shots. We were executing, but we didn’t get anybody going.”
Carroll surged into Tuesday’s contest, upsetting No. 2-ranked and previously unbeaten Lewis-Clark State College, and beating back a pesky Montana Tech team.
“I felt like we looked tired. We looked physically and mentally not sharp. Western came in here off a heartbreaking loss to Northern on Saturday and played like it. We were flat. Tuesday game. Got a couple kids that are hurting and some sick kids and then Sara Chalich that is in clinicals all day, and then is racing to get here before tipoff.”
A total of three points had been the margin of victory for the No. 22 Bulldogs over the Saints this season. Both games have come down to the final few seconds with the Bulldogs making the final plays to cement a win. Tuesday, Western controlled the game from the tip, thanks to large offensive performances from Palmore and Kaye Bignell, who finished with 16 and 19 points respectively.
“They’re both playing with a ton of confidence for one,” Woolley said of his top scorers. “Kaye does such a good job of using her quickness. Aniese just has great floor vision. There was a couple time when we got Sierra Bignell out there because we needed three-pointers.”
While the Saints looked to have turned a new page over their prior three games, taking care of the basketball and generating high-quality shots while continuing their strong defensive play, the Saints reverted in the first half.
“It’s tough to get going when you have so many empty possessions,” Sayers said. “We moved the ball, we worked the ball, we had good shots, shots we’ve been getting all year, and we just could not get one to fall. We turned it over nine times first half and that didn’t help. I thought Western played great.”
When Carroll upset L-C State, the Saints recorded just seven turnovers. Tuesday against Western, they had nine in the first half before bouncing back to finish with 10 for the game.
Carroll trailed 32-11 going into halftime.
The Saints' rate of scoring picked up in the second half, as they went on a quick 6-0 run to force a Western timeout. Halfway through the quarter, the Saints doubled their first-half output. Still, they were unable to cut much into the margin.
Any time it looked like Saints could create momentum, Palmore squashed it. Palmore assisted on a 3 and then hit one of her own to keep the Bulldogs margin’ above 20 points.
The Saints fought to another 6-0 run with two minutes left in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs controlled the game until the final few moments.
After having an emotional high, beating Lewis-Clark State, and then a short preparation before falling to Western, amid team injuries and other chaos, Saints forward Cassidy Hashley, who finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds, said the team has to move forward from the loss to prepare for a road game against Rocky Mountain College on Thursday.
“We’re still fighting,” she said. “To me it was not our best game. I think it will tell a lot about us how we respond to this game. We’re not happy with how we played and the outcome of that game, but we have one choice and that’s to fight. I think we’re going to do that.”