The Bears turned the ball over 29 times in a 77-68 loss to the defending MASCAC champion Owls on Saturday afternoon at the Tinsley Center.
BRIDGEWATER – The Bridgewater State University women’s basketball team faced a challenge in its bid to keep a three-game winning streak going.
Westfield State University, which has won the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference regular-season title outright four years in a row and the tournament championship three straight years, paid a visit to the Tinsley Center on Saturday afternoon.
The Owls arrived averaging 92.1 points per game and had scored at least 100 points in five games with an up-tempo offense.
Bridgewater State did itself no favors against the defending MASCAC champions, turning the ball over 29 times in a 77-68 loss to Westfield State.
“Twenty-nine turnovers, that’s too many against a team like that,’’ said Bears coach Bridgett Casey after her team fell to 6-9, 1-1 in the conference. “At the end of the day, we just didn’t take care of the ball.
“It’s been a problem. We talk about it. You’re not going to be perfect for the whole 40 minutes, but you have to take care of the ball each possession and not let one mistake lead to the next. At times today, it did.’’
The Owls (8-7, 2-0 MASCAC) scored 39 points off of those turnovers and led for the game’s final 24:12, opening a 17-point bulge during the third quarter before the Bears made things interesting.
Casey, whose team is 5-3 since getting off to a 1-6 start, was encouraged by what her team was able to do against the MASCAC favorite, other than the turnovers.
“We’re in a good place,’’ said Casey. “We’ve just got to continue to fight the fight and work on the things that we can control, and taking care of the ball is one thing we can control.
“Obviously, I hate losing. At times, our inability to find the 3-point shooter in the corner hurt us. We couldn’t make that defensive adjustment for certain stretches. We had a number of missed layups and all the turnovers, and you take those two things and it could have been a one or two possession game.
“But I thought where we were two months ago to where we are now, it’s night and day. I like where we are.’’
Destiny Fitzgerald came off the bench to lead BSU, scoring 22 points on 9 for 15 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds with three blocked shots in 28 minutes.
Sara DaSilva scored 20 points, hitting four 3-pointers, to go with six assists and four steals while playing nearly the entire game. Kailyn Aguiar contributed a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Bridgewater State slowed Westfield State down early to take a 14-12 lead after one quarter, but the Bears fell behind, 35-27, at halftime.
The Owls stretched the lead to 54-37 with 4:01 remaining in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Alyssa Camara to cap a 13-0 run, and Casey called a timeout.
The Bears responded by closing out the quarter on an 11-0 run of their own with Fitzgerald scoring five of the points and DaSilva adding two baskets to get Bridgewater Stat within 54-48 with 10 minutes to go.
A layup by Fitzgerald six seconds into the last quarter moved the Bears within four, but Lucy Barrett (24 points) led an 8-0 run that put the Owls back in command at 62-50. Bridgewater State would get no close than six points the rest of the way.
“We held that team to 77 points and for them, I’ll take that,’’ said Casey. “Give me three or four of those layups we missed and cut the turnovers down by 10 and now you’re even coming down the stretch.
“I think defensively we’re playing as a team with a little more talk, more communication. Offensively, we don’t have a go-to player who’s consistent, so it’s finding some consistency on the offensive end.’’
Jim Fenton may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JFenton_ent.