After starting the season 2-0, women’s basketball suffered a pair of losses this week to Western Kentucky and Wright State.
The Racers never held a lead in either game, and they fell behind by double-digits early.
Unable to put together rallies late left the team with two lopsided defeats.
Head Coach Rob Cross said those games would be two of the toughest this season, but that does not make the losses acceptable.
“We need to find a way to get off to better starts,” Cross said. “The starts are very concerning to me and we will have to evaluate how we start.”
The Racers hosted Wright State Thursday and couldn’t recover from an early 23-6 deficit to the Raiders, and lost 95-69.
“We ran into a buzz saw,” Cross said. “They put on an offensive clinic early in the game and that was the biggest problem.”
One of the problems the Racers faced was Raider guard Ivory James who scored 35 points in the win over Murray State.
Because of their slow start, the Racers were forced to rely on the 3-point shot.
After the second media timeout, Murray State found its range and hit four 3-pointers, sparked by freshman guard Julia Fox. However, the Racers only cut the lead to 10.
With the first half winding down, the Raiders regained momentum with an 8-0 run to take a 52-33 halftime lead.
“We came out the first five minutes and weren’t locked down and focused,” Cross said.
In the second half, Murray State mistakes coupled with the Raiders’ up-tempo offense was too much for the Racers to overcome.
The Racers committed three for their 19 turnovers of the game in their first three possessions in the second half, eliminating hopes of a comeback.
“It was just like the start of the first half and I think we looked across at our opponent and we really didn’t have confidence going against them,” Cross said.
The game was similar to the Racers’ Saturday game, which saw Western Kentucky jump out to an early 19-8 lead.
The Racers got within seven points after a 3-pointer by Fox, but could not get any closer, going into the locker room down 45-34.
“We got off to a rough start turning it over five times in the first two minutes,” Cross said.
With the Racers still in striking distance, the Hilltoppers went on a 20-5 run early in the second half and extended the lead to 22 points.
Murray State battled back to cut the deficit to 12 points as sophomore guard Keiona Kirby scored her only 3-pointer of the game.
However, that shot was the last basket for the Racers, as Western Kentucky finished the game on an 11-0 run, handing the Racers an 86-63 loss.
The Racers were led by Kirby and senior forward Jessica Winfrey, who both scored 11 points against the Hilltoppers.
“We really needed to shoot the ball well, but struggled shooting it,” Cross said.
The Racers were held to 31 percent from the field and 27 percent from behind the 3-point line against Western Kentucky.
The area that Cross said cost the Racers the game was on the glass, where Western Kentucky outrebounded the Racers by 20.
“They just dominated us on the glass,” Cross said. “Twenty-one offensive rebounds which turned into (25) points and that was the ballgame.”
In the team’s two losses, the Racers allowed 39 offensive rebounds and committed 32 turnovers.
“(Winfrey) is the only one really rebounding right now and nobody else is,” Cross said. “We’ve been spending a lot of time working on blocking out and getting in good rebounding position but we didn’t see that come throughout in the game.”
The Racers will have to improve quickly as they play host to Saint Louis Saturday.
“They are a higher conference and that means they have bigger bodies and are more physical, so we have to find a way to respond to that,” Cross said.
Women’s basketball continues its three-game home stand with Saint Louis at 7 p.m. on Saturday and Kennesaw State at 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday.
Story by Tom Via, Staff writer