For about the first 55 minutes of the Varsity Blues women’s basketball season it looked like their points would have to come from someone other than their top scorer last season—but then smooth-shooting veteran guard Elanna Robson got her wakeup call just before halftime of game two of the young season and was close to unstoppable by the end of a 77-72 win over Laurier.
An inexperienced Golden Hawks team coming off a 4-17 campaign last season started out strong Saturday afternoon at the Sports Gym, playing the Blues to a 41-41 standoff in the opening half on the strength of offensive rebounding and three-point shooting. However, U of T would score the first six points after the break and would hoold on to that lead, despite letting Laurier hang around close right to the end.
Robson, who has seen limited practice since breaking her nose in a pre-season game, started off Saturday’s game slowly, much like the season opener the night before, but in the second half she dropped in 18 of her game high 23 points, leading the charge to victory.
“In the first half I was still feeling a bit sluggish,” said Robson, who missed her only field goal attempt against Waterloo Friday and missed five of her six free throw attempts for one point total. “In the second half I got on a bit of a roll and Holly (Pagnan) started making some nice passes.”
With just four points and four assists, Pagnan was a minor player in Saturday’s game, but on Friday the point guard was at her best as the team’s floor general, amassing an incredible 15 assists to go with 15 points scored on her own (see number cruncher).
While Laurier bombed away from long distance Saturday afternoon, taking 27 three-point shots (but making just eight of them, 29.6%), the Blues were content to try only a handful of treys (three for seven, 42.9 %) and instead dribble penetrated into the paint to set up high percentage shots and draw lots of fouls. The lane penetration by U of T’s perimeter players that allowed them to outshoot the Golden Hawk 48 percent to 36.4 percent in the second half was partly by design, but also partly out of necessity.
“Our post (Jacquie Armour, who fouled out in the second half) being in big, huge foul trouble in the first half got us out of sync, so we didn’t have a post game,” said head coach Michele Belanger.
However, as Robson explained, that opened up different options that worked better for the Blues in this particular game.
“We had to go to our perimeter game and we were penetrating well, so we stuck with that down the stretch.”
While the Blues got away with a horrendous 42.9 percent rate at the free throw line Friday in a 75-59 win, they needed the advantage at the charity stripe to secure a narrow win Saturday. While the percentage tailed off somewhat in the second half, U of T got to the line 16 more times than Laurier, and converted 24 of their 34 chances (70.6%), a key to their second straight win.
A strange schedule this season means the Blues will play their next eight games on the road before returning home January 18, but shortly thereafter U of T will end the regular season with a nine game home stand starting February 1 and will then host the OUA East playoffs at the Sports Gym in March.