Aside from a slow start that saw the NAIA No. 20 Warhawks (10-2) jump out to an 8-1 lead and a couple of lulls here and there, the Wolves (6-3) did what they needed to do in the 67-57 victory.
“I thought their kids played hard. They are 10-1, and they looked like a 10-1, nationally-ranked team. We’ll definitely take that. It was a good, solid win. But I feel like we still have lapses, where we just kind of go brain dead a little bit,” Groninger said. “Once we got up, you kind of had the feeling we were going to be fine.”
West Georgia rebounded from its slow start to go on an 8-0 run of its own and go up 9-8. From there, the rest of the first half was a back-and-forth battle, where AUH took as much as a six-point lead while the Wolves held a five-point advantage at one point. The first 20 minutes would end with the Warhawks taking a 33-32 advantage into the locker room.
The second half was pretty much all Wolves, as they came out of the break on a 12-1 run, opening up a double-digit lead. AUH would pull to within four at the 12:21 mark and three points with 9:30 left, but both times the Wolves responded and would get back up to 10-plus points for almost the rest of the game.
“I think we had a lot more energy [to start the second half]. Players of all ages, you worry about your offense. But it wasn’t our offense. Our defense triggers everything. When we’re sharp defensively, we’re generally decent offensively. But when we’re not very good defensively, then we just kind of stand around,” Groninger said. “I thought the biggest difference is we were energized defensively.”
And as the defense goes, so go the offense for the Wolves. When the UWG defense was making things happen, it resulted in points for the offense. The Wolves forced 22 turnovers and scored 30 points off turnovers in the game.
Four Wolves reached double-figures scoring, led by Brittany Johnson’s 16-point effort, with Jerlisa Taylor and Mone’ Peoples adding 13 points each, Taylor Turgeon scoring 10 and Shakiyla McLin chipping in with eight points. Taylor and Johnson both just missed double-doubles with nine rebounds each.
That is the kind of balanced attack Groninger expects to see from his team each game.
“That’s how we have to be. Hopefully, we’ll continue that. It’s fun being on teams where you’re not relying on just one person. I think it’s good,” Groninger said.
The Warhawks were led by Katie Williams’ 15 points, while LaKenya Drayto added 11 points in the loss.
There is one game left for UWG before it goes on holiday break and return to the Gulf South Conference schedule. A visiting Coastal Georgia team will be another tough task, especially at this point of the year.
“Coastal Georgia is 9-2. They had Augusta State, who wore us out. They had them down eight against Augusta in the second half before they came back. But then, on the flip side, [Auburn-Montgomery] beat Coastal Georgia at Coastal Georgia by five. It’s going to be another tight game,” Groninger said. “We’re going to have to be ready. It’s so hard, because I know our kids have a foot home. That’s why we’re so sluggish at times.”