Sorry everyone for the late posting time and for a fairly short recap as I'm pretty exhausted packing sandbags to minimize the flooding expected at the family home this winter.
The Zags improved their record to 3-1 to start the year with a win against the University of North Florida at home 83-55. I'll be honest, I was looking at the UNF team and thinking that this game looked like a "buy" game and while the score may confirm this, I think that the Ospreys showed up to play with heart and challenged the Zags early on before the game script slide against them.
The first quarter ended 24-21 with the Bulldogs ahead, although the quarter seemed closer to that with the Ospreys spreading the ball around for 5 assists while also making 5-10 from beyond the arc. Lyric Swann didn't start, but she played 7 minutes and led her team in scoring with 6 points. Instead of her dominating the ball, it looked like Coach Lambert was going to emphasize playing mostly thru Jayla Adams who finished the quarter with 6 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal. The Zags were actually down on two occasions this quarter, but Yvonne scored 5 of her 10 points within the last two minutes to propel the Bulldogs into the lead. We didn't look particularly bad, but the team was looking to allow outside shots at the expense of controlling the pain and the Ospreys were able to capitalize on this approach, which is just how the game will play out sometimes. However, from the second quarter onwards, the outside shooting from the Ospreys dried up as they went 5-20 from deep and the Zags never gave up their tight lead at the end of the first quarter.
Yvonne Ejim had an amazing game as she posted 20 points (9-12 FG), 8 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 3 steals. Most importantly though, ZERO fouls while also posting her highest minutes so far this season at 29. I think this last point relates to a combination of Yvonne showing more discipline with her position and decision making on when to attack her defensive assignment along with a more aggressive substitution pattern from Coach Fortier that may have kept any related fatigue issues in check. I also think that the team defense was much better as shown by the number of batted passes that led to outright steals (11 total), blocks (9 total), or disrupted the Osprey offense in such a way that any shots were of fairly poor quality after the first quarter
Kayliegh Truong tied her recently set career high of 21 points (7-14 FG and 5-8 3FG) while also contributing 5 assists and 2 steals. She was hunting for her shot and just seemed in the groove this game. I do think that the chemistry noted in previous comments with her sister was off the charts as most of Kaylynne's 8 assists seemed to be with her sister. Kaylynne did have 4 turnovers and didn't shoot great (3-9), but overall, I think she facilitated this team's offense well.
Closing out, I want to quickly highlight some performances from the Bulldogs:
- Maud Hujibens went for 12 points (6-6 FG) in just 19 minutes. She looked aggressive and reinforced her importance to this team as the primary big off the bench.
- Naya Ojukwu played 9 minutes and while she didn't make much of an impact on the stat sheet, I think she made her presence felt on the court with 2 forceful blocks, 1 steal, and overall just highlighting her incredible athleticism. Her consistent bench playing time this year has me wondering if Destiny Burton will see much time on the court (for context, she was dressed in sweats this past game).
- Peyton Muma featured for 7 minutes this game and added 2 assists to go along with 2 steals. I would love to see her play more as she dribbles smoothly and takes opponents off the drive well, but her skillset seems a little duplicative with the Truong sisters healthy and I'm not confident enough to say that Peyton should be inserted ahead of Stokes at this time.
- Brynna Maxwell only saw 18 minutes during which time she shot 5-11 overall and 2-6 from deep. I'm not concerned about her lower minutes this game given how everything progressed after the first quarter, but I'm still waiting on her deep shot to start falling at a higher clip. I absolutely want her to shoot and believe she's essential to this team reaching their maximal potential. Watching the postgame interviews from the previous game, it seems that she has the full backing of the coaching staff and her teammates to continue onwards, which makes me quite happy.
- Speaking of postgame interviews, I got major future-coach vibes from Maud. Anybody else?