Facing injuries, women’s basketball gives strong effort in recent losses

Facing injuries, women’s basketball gives strong effort in recent losses
Third-year Gabby Giacone preparing to shoot a free throw. Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics

By John Hagerty, deputy sports editor

After losing 79-69 to Harvard University, Northeastern University women’s basketball head coach Kelly Cole praised her team’s grit, as they responded well to a 20-point deficit in the third quarter.

Despite the game being out of reach in the final minutes, the Huskies fought and clawed until the clock hit zero.

“We continued to fight,” Cole said after the game. “We continued to execute things and that’s one of the things that I like to see and I think that is who we are as a program. We’re not going to give up ever.”

The Huskies faced a myriad of injuries throughout the season, notably to key rotation players second-year guard Ayanna Dublin, third-year forward Gabby Giacone and their leading scorer from last season, fifth-year guard Claudia Ortiz.

In the game against Harvard, second-year forward Jasmine Braswell and first-year guard Jasmin Watson were thrust into totally new roles, each playing around 20 minutes against Harvard when they were mainly playing spot minutes, if at all, in the team’s other games.

Third-year guard Jess Genco led the Huskies in scoring with 15 points from five of 13 three-pointers, but more importantly she was a motivational leader for the team. Genco has carried a heavy load for the team this season, averaging a team-high 39 minutes per game.

“She’s been playing 40 minutes a game for the past three years,” Cole said. “We saw her rallying the team which is good. Today when things were down for us, Jess did a good job.”

The Huskies had a recent practice with only eight healthy players, making it impossible to even scrimmage each other five-on-five.

In spite of these challenges, the Huskies have played better than their current 3-5 record might indicate.

The team is trying to stay positive and hopes that the games without the injured starters will give newcomers more game experience and increase the team’s overall depth as they head into conference play.

“There’s a lot of positives to be had,” Cole said. “We are going to come out of it on the better side of this because we’ll have a deeper bench.”

Over Thanksgiving break, the Huskies played in the Thanksgiving Classic, hosted by UMass Amherst. The tournament involved two games in two days — a tall task for a team facing injuries and a shortened bench.

The Huskies won the first game 64-54 against host UMass, a game in which the team trailed by one at halftime. Third-year guard Jess Genco championed a 15-0 NU run in the third quarter to regain the lead and finished with a team-high 18 points.

After dominating the host Minutemen in the third quarter, the Huskies were able to hold their lead and ride out the victory.

In the second game, NU faced the University of Houston and lost 72-64. The Huskies led by 12 at one point in the first half but we unable to maintain the lead, facing a barrage of scoring from Houston guard Angela Harris, who had a game-high 25 points.

Against Houston, only six Huskies saw the floor. With such a small group playing heavy minutes in two straight days during the tournament, Cole did acknowledge that her team’s exhaustion could have affected the outcome of the game.

“I’m certainly not going to blame fatigue for [the loss], but I’m sure it’s a factor,” Cole said. “In the second game in two days, you’re going to have some tired legs.”

Shortly after Thanksgiving break, the team faced the University of New Hampshire. NU kept pace with the home Wildcats in the first quarter, but the team gave up multiple big runs in the second half en route to a 65-50 loss. Gabby Giacone led the Huskies against UNH, scoring 16 points.

The Huskies now have 11 days to rest and prepare for the lengthy season ahead. They will round out their non-conference schedule on Dec. 17 at the University of Vermont, followed by two games at the Beach Classic in Long Beach, California. They will start their CAA slate at Towson University on December 29.

Cole feels that the determination that the team displayed thus far will lead to in-game success as they continue the season.

“There are certainly details that we have to be better at, both defensively and offensively,” Cole said. “I think with the fact that the kids are fighting as hard as they are, and continuing to stay positive and work, I have no doubt we will get there.”

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