Bailey ‘proud of the effort’ as QU women lose home finale to Truman State

Truman State (76)

Beth Matas Martin, right, played all 40 minutes and finished with a team-best 17 points, the only QU player to reach double figures against Truman State. | Photo courtesy of Denny Sinnock

QUINCY – Quincy University women’s basketball coach Kaci Bailey knew her team was facing a tall order Saturday afternoon in its final home game of the season.

Truman State entered the game in Pepsi Arena having won 11 straight games in the series. The Bulldogs began the day as the second-highest scoring team in the Great Lakes Valley Conference behind the league’s top scorer in guard Hannah Belanger and an imposing front line.

They also were smarting from an overtime home loss to Lewis that dropped them into a second-place tie in the GLVC with the Flyers.

Predictably, Truman State opened a double-digit lead in the second quarter and maintained it through the third, withstood at QU rally in the early minutes of the final period and pulled away for a 67-51 victory.

Yet, it wasn’t quite as easy as the final score might indicate.

“I’m proud of the effort,” Bailey said after the Hawks lost for the fourth time in five games to fall to 11-15 overall and 7-11 in the GLVC. “We were down the whole game, but we never quit. We competed.”

QU, which tied the game twice early but never led, shot just 26 percent from the field in the first half to trail 32-19. Truman State increased its advantage to 47-31 in the opening six minutes of the third quarter before the Hawks used seven free throws and a layup by Emma Knipe to pull within 50-40 entering the fourth period.

A 3-pointer by Rylee Denbow and another by Beth Matas Martin cut the deficit to 53-46 with 6:18 to play.

That’s when the comeback ran out of steam. The Bulldogs (18-8, 14-4) went on a 10-0 run over the next three minutes to put the game out of reach.

“We got some good looks, but the shots were not falling,” Bailey said. “I thought we did a good job on (Belanger). Our goal was to keep her under 20. We made her work for her points. But we struggled inside with their size, we struggled to score at the rim.”

Belanger, a 5-foot-8 senior, entered the game averaging 22.2 points per game and shooting nearly 52 percent from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range. She finished with a game-high 20 points Saturday, with 13 of those coming in the second half.

However, the biggest difference was inside, where forwards Ellie Weltha and Alex Fanning combined for 29 points and 22 rebounds. The Bulldogs outscored the Hawks 32-16 in the paint.

Matas Martin played all 40 minutes and finished with a team-best 17 points, the only QU player to reach double figures. However, she made just 6 of 23 field goal tries and 3 of 12 shots from long range.

“Fatigue set in,” Bailey said of the senior guard. “She never came off the floor. She was bringing the ball up the court and was being asked to also make shots.”

The Hawks shot just 28 percent from the field and made only 4 of 20 3-point attempts. Senior Sarah Nelson, playing her final home game, finished with eight points. Knipe, another senior, had four points and nine rebounds.

QU remains in a four-way tie for seventh place in the GLVC and holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the league’s point system. It closes out the regular season at Southwest Baptist Thursday and at Rockhurst next Saturday.

The Hawks outscored SBU, which is ninth in the points standings, 17-3 over the final four minutes Jan. 14 to pull out a 63-59 victory at home. They lost the first meeting to Rockhurst two days earlier, 68-60.

QU is trying to reach the GLVC postseason tournament for the first time in seven seasons.

“We know this week is huge,” Bailey said. “We match up well with those two teams. We have good opportunities in front of us.”

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