The Oglethorpe women's basketball team faced its third straight ranked opponent Friday evening at Dorough Field House and held a second-half lead in all three games, including Friday night. However, as with the previous two opponents, No. 20 Rhodes was just a little too much for the Stormy Petrels down the stretch and the visiting Lynx pulled out a 59-53 victory.
The game was a tight, back-and-forth affair throughout, featuring 12 lead changes and six ties. The Petrels led twice in the first half, holding as much as a three-point advantage. Rhodes was able to answer and take a 30-28 halftime lead, but they were never able to build a lead of larger than six points throughout the game. The Petrels again took the lead in the second half, holding a 35-33 advantage with 16:30 remaining in the game. The Lynx again retook the lead and built it back to as much as six points, but the Petrels fought it back down to a one-possession game with a minute left. They were unable to get any closer than that, though.
The Petrels outshot the Lynx from the floor, converting at a 30.3 percent rate to their opponent's 27.3 percent one. Oglethorpe was just 11 percent (3-for-27) from three-point range, though, while Rhodes shot 28 percent. The Petrels outscored Rhodes 28-16 in the paint, but Rhodes held a 19-7 edge off turnovers.
Oglethorpe was again led by sophomore forward Ciaira Hughes, who tallied another double-double on the evening. She poured in 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the floor and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe while grabbing 14 rebounds. Junior guard Emily Buck contributed 13 points and three assists while junior forward Ali Bleckley scored eight points, grabbed nine rebounds, and led the team with two steals.
The Petrels got off to a good start early, going on an 8-3 run to build an 8-5 lead with 16:55 to go in the first half. Rhodes came back with six straight points of their own, though, building a lead which would be tied for their largest of the game, 19-13, with 10:35 left in the half. The Petrels answered with a 9-0 run over the next three minutes, taking a 22-19 advantage with 7:20 left in the first half. The Lynx answered right back with an 11-4 run, though, building a 30-26 lead just before halftime. At the half, the Lynx led by a basket, 30-28. Buck led the home side in scoring in the first half, scoring all 13 of her points in the opening stanza.
In the second half, Oglethorpe began on a 7-3 run, taking the lead back, 35-33, with 16:30 left. However, Rhodes answered with a 13-7 run to equal their largest lead, 51-45. From there, the two teams traded baskets for much of the remainder of the contest. Oglethorpe was able to pull to within three with a minute remaining, 56-53, but the Lynx hit a pair of free throws down at the other end with 18 seconds left to secure the victory.
"We are right on the cusp and have come so far," said Oglethorpe Head Coach Alex Richey. "We just need to learn how to close. I'm very proud of our effort tonight, though, going up against our third straight ranked opponent. I've been exceptionally proud of our effort in all these games, in fact. I'm looking forward to seeing how we respond on Sunday."
On Sunday, the 5-8 (0-2 SAA) Petrels will get a break from ranked opponents, but will have to face a scrappy Hendrix team inside Dorough Field House. The game will get started at 1 p.m. After that, the team will go out on the road for their next five games, a stretch which will span three weekends.