DELAWARE – Freshman Cierra Joiner came off the bench in the first quarter and scored eight consecutive points for the Ohio Wesleyan women’s basketball team.
But, the Battling Bishops couldn’t overcome a poor shooting performance and fell 55-48 to Oberlin in NCAC play Wednesday afternoon at Branch Rickey Arena.
Joiner’s effort sparked a 12-2 run that bridged the first two quarters to give OWU the lead.
“She’s definitely going to learn how to sustain that over four quarters,” OWU coach Stacey Ungashick Lobdell said. “I think that’s the challenge of being a freshman. We’re in the middle of the season where you have to grind it out because it’s a long college season.”
Oberlin caught fire in the third quarter, using a 14-4 run to get the lead back. Cheyanne Arthur knocked down a jumper with 1:36 left in the frame to give the Yeowomen the lead for good.
The Bishops hit three of their first four field goal attempts to open the second half, but struggled to maintain that effort going forward – hitting just seven of their last 32 shots from the field.
“If you don’t put the ball in the basket – it makes it challenging,” Ungashick Lobdell said. “We definitely had our opportunities. We settled in after the first quarter when we adjusted to their height a little bit.”
Olivia Canning, who stands 6-foot-4, proved to be a tall task for OWU underneath. The senior post led Oberlin with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Sophomore Tyler Collins had 11 rebounds to go with nine points, junior Maggie Gross dished out five assists and had three blocks to lead the Yeowomen (6-6, 2-2), who snapped a four-game losing streak.
“I think they started with their bigs inside,” Ungashick Lobdell said. “We battled as much as we could. I might think differently when I watch the film.”
OWU is a team that depends on its youth. The Bishops have just two seniors, but are led in scoring by freshman Devin Hefner and sophomore Tia Karras.
The duo struggled from the floor, going a combined 8-for-28. Karras knocked down three of her nine 3-point attempts and finished with 11 points.
“Coming in (to the season) we knew we had talent in our freshman class and now we’re relying on them – which is tough as freshmen,” Ungashick Lobdell said. “They’ll figure it out – it’s just a matter of confidence. Once you see the ball fall a couple of times, it’s amazing how your confidence comes back.”
Joiner led the Bishops with 12 points and tied Claire Sterling for the team lead with seven rebounds. Sterling and Hefner each added eight points and senior Lisa Zeller had four steals for OWU.
The Bishops (8-5, 3-1) have slowed up, dropping three of their last four games after a 7-2 start, which included a five-game winning streak.
The slide has coincided with the loss of another top freshman, Molly Delaney, who has missed the last five games with a knee injury.
“I think today we saw the absence of Molly Delaney even more because Molly is real physical and she was playing in that (post) rotation,” Ungashick Lobdell said.
Delaney fears she may have torn the ACL in her right knee, though she won’t know for sure until she sees the doctor today. Ungashick Lobdell said the loss is a big one because, “she’s like having another coach on the floor.”
Delaney is no stranger to this kind of injury. She tore her ACL late in her sophomore season at Olentangy.
OWU got some good news on the injury front with the return of junior Nicole Popovich, who missed the first 10 games. Popovich led the NCAC in rebounding last season, averaging 1o.5 per game.
“Right now, we’re just trying to see how she fits into the rotation,” Ungashick Lobdell said. “She’s been playing the four position. Today, it was really challenging because of her height and she really doesn’t have the experience (at that position). We definitely have to find a way to work her back in.”
Next up, OWU continues conference play at Denison Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.