Teams that come into Mitchell Hall to play the UW-La Crosse women’s basketball team know they’ll be met by a superb defense.
Calvin (Mich.) raised the stakes Friday.
The Knights (10-0), ranked fourth by D3hoops.com, also know how to play great defense, and used that — plus a dominating performance by preseason All-America forward Carissa Verkaik — to defeat the Eagles 60-40.
“Defense is usually where we get our spark,” Eagles center Kassie Robinson said. “We didn’t have that tonight.”
Calvin held La Crosse to season lows in points and field goal percentage (24.4) while forcing 16 turnovers.
The Knights entered the game leading the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association in scoring defense (47 ppg).
Calvin’s defense was able to get the best of both worlds against the Eagles. Robinson had 17 points, mostly inside, but was 7-for-21 from the field, while La Crosse’s guards struggled from the outside. No one besides Robinson had more than five points.
“You can’t shoot 24 percent and turn the ball over and beat the No. 4-ranked team,” Eagles coach Lois Heeren said.
Verkaik, a 6-foot-2 junior, scored 27 points with 10 rebounds, six blocks and three steals.
“(Verkaik) is just a great offensive player,” Robinson said. “I guarded her, but no matter what I did ... I’m disappointed with my part of it and we just gave up too many points to their posts inside.”
La Crosse (9-3) had a four-game winning streak come to an end. The Eagles’ three losses have come to teams with a combined record of 25-7.
The first half went back-and-forth with eight lead changes. The Eagles were ahead 20-17 at 5:53 when Calvin went on an 8-3 burst to halftime.
The Knights kept going in the second half, and were ahead by 10 points after a Jill Thomas 3-pointer at 11:05.
“We did a good job of getting the ball inside and stuck with our game plan of what we normally do,” said Calvin coach John Ross, who is the older brother of Eagles assistant and Onalaska Luther softball/girls tennis coach Mark Ross.