BELLINGHAM - Rhythm and balance will always get the better of clumsy and confused.
And that was exactly the case as Western Washington University's women's basketball team controlled and dictated the No. 18 team in the country, Northwest Nazarene University, in an 81-68 win on Saturday, Jan. 11, at Sam Carver Gymnasium. With the win the Vikings improve to 7-6 overall and 3-2 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The win was also WWU's 24th consecutive home win.
Junior guard Katie Colard led the Vikings with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting - all of her shots came from beyond the 3-point line. She also added three rebounds and three assists. Sarah Hill and Taylor Peacocke both had 16 points, and Sydney Donaldson backed up her 21-point effort against Central Washington University on Thursday with a 15-point game against NNU. Donaldson also chipped in 15 rebounds - six on the offensive side of the ball - four blocks and four assists.
WWU's flow on the offensive end, moving the ball fluidly around the perimeter and working the Crusaders' 2-3 Zone, created open opportunity after open opportunity. Despite falling down quickly, 7-1, the Vikings recorded assists on 10 of their first 11 made baskets of the first quarter.
"I just felt like we didn't panic," WWU coach Carmen Dolfo said. "I felt like we did a really good job of breaking the zone down and getting good shots."
Going into the game, the Vikings knew that the Crusaders were going to run their 2-3 Zone defense. Dolfo, after the game, said Colard had been waiting for this game because she rarely gets the opportunity to face such a defense that, if the ball movement is right, leaves perimeter shooters open.
Colard connected on 3-pointers for WWU's first two makes, and hit a game-high six - many of which came in key moments.
"We knew if we got the ball worked inside-outside, our shooters would be open," Colard said. "The first half, we had a really good flow."
After three consecutive baskets by Donaldson and a 3-pointer by point guard Jenni White, WWU had built up a 29-21 lead with 5:19 left in the first half. At that point, Peacocke took over the game on offense.
After subbing in at the 5:14 mark, Peacocke accounted for 10 points and two assists in the final minutes of the first half to help the Vikings head into the break with a 45-29 lead. She hit a key 3-pointer off an offensive rebound by Marcel Pounds, and she also hit a running jumper in the final seconds.
"I was just trying to bring energy and change the pace of the game," Peacocke said. "I went in and tried to penetrate and get my teammates open, and kind of open up the middle by penetrating and kicking out."
Dolfo ran with Peacocke for much of the first quarter for that very reason.
"She's fearless," Dolfo said of Peacocke. "I thought she really got our offense going because she wasn't afraid to take the ball to the basket and pitch."
NNU came out of the break looking more like its No. 18-ranking than the team that went 8 for 26 from the field in the first half.
The Crusaders came out on a 17-9 run in the first 7:38 of the second half, but if not for Colard hitting back-to-back 3's it would have been a much tighter affair. After a pair of free throws by Donaldson, and another 3-pointer by Colard, the Vikings were back up 59-46. Pounds would later add an acrobatic layin followed by several assisted layups by Hill.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Colard and White in the final minutes of the game gave WWU a 73-57 lead, and it never allowed NNU to get within 14 points after that.
Not lost in the Vikings' win was the fact that they out-rebounded NNU, which was the best rebounding team in the GNAC entering the matchup, 42-33. The Crusaders came into the game leading the conference with a plus-8.5 rebounding margin. Couple that with the fact that despite WWU pulling out a 71-64 win over Central Washington University on Thursday, it allowed 18 offensive rebounds.
WWU only let NNU grab three offensive rebounds in the first half, although 11 second-half offensive rebounds left something to be desired for Dolfo.
"We've been trying all year to get us going on the boards," Dolfo said. "... We felt like it hurt us all year, and it was fun to see tonight. ... It just means that we can do it. It's got to be a choice. We're big. It just finally seemed to click a little bit more tonight."
The Vikings had another strong game from the floor, shooting a combined 26 for 57 from the field, and 10-of-25 from 3-point range. As a team, WWU out-assisted NNU 22-7.
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.