By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Quincy University women's basketball coach Jeni Garber's focus in practice Thursday will be rebuilding her team's confidence.
After what happened Wednesday night at Pepsi Arena, that's a tough task.
Facing a Harris-Stowe State University team with only seven players in uniform, the Lady Hawks built an 11-point lead midway through the first half before it all slipped away.
The Hornets erased the deficit with an 18-8 run, took the lead for good with 11:39 remaining in the second half and posted a 72-66 victory.
It was the fourth consecutive loss for QU, which is now 1-6 and off to its worst start since going 0-26 in the 1997-98 season.
It also was the first victory for the Hornets (3-7) in seven career meetings with the Lady Hawks.
"We have some nice pieces and we have good players, but we have to get better," Garber said. "That's the thing that has to start tomorrow in practice. We have to have a resolve and come back. We don't have a whole lot of confidence now. We have to build that in practice and give them confidence. We have to start working together and work on the things we need to improve on."
Early on, it appeared QU would roll to a win. The Hawks exploited the Hornets' 2-3 zone to build a 21-10 lead with 11:16 left in the half on a jumper by Kara Gerbus. Solid ball movement allowed Gerbus to get open looks as she scored a career-high 14 points off the bench.
"They penetrated and kicked me the ball," said Gerbus, who knocked down two 3-pointers. "I work on shooting in practice, and that's what they depended on me for tonight. I hit the open shots when they were open."
Hot shooting combined with a strong performance from Shanique Buford allowed the Hornets to erase the deficit. Harris-Stowe used an 18-8 run to take a 29-28 lead with 4:01 left before halftime.
Overall, the Hornets shot 51 percent (24 of 47) from the field and 42 percent (8 of 19) from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Lady Hawks shot 35 percent (24 of 68) from the field and 26 percent (7 of 27) from the perimeter.
"Our shots started not falling," Garber said. "We kept trying to shoot 3-pointers off the first pass and not get the ball inside and out and get it reversed. We started taking quick shots and got us out of rhythm. We started missing some shots, and they took us out of it. We need to do a better job against the zone."
Gerbus said she thought the Hawks' intensity slipped as the first half wore on.
"I think that we may have started to relax a little too much," Gerbus said. "We got up those points and took it easy. We just didn't work as hard, offense or defense. They made tough shots, worked and moved the ball. In the end, we didn't keep up our competitiveness."
No one from QU could knock Buford off the blocks early. She scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in the first half and finished with 15 points and 10 boards.
After halftime, Lady Hawks' Hannah Weedman shut down Buford. She managed to limit Buford to three points in the second half.
"We just needed to box her out and play her straight up because she was going to muscle her way through there," said Weedman, who finished with 10 points and four rebounds. "We came out and did that in the second half. We did what we were supposed to do, but we should have done that in the first half."
What saved the Hornets was their jump shooting. QU dominated the glass, out-rebounding Harris-Stowe 45-29.
After Gerbus made a 3-pointer with 7:20 remaining to cut the lead to 54-52, Alexis Minner responded with a 3-pointer. Weedman cut the lead to 62-59 with 2:16 remaining, but Minner responded with another jumper.
Harris-Stowe coach Dennis Griffin said his team did a good job making clutch shots.
"I don't know that we thought we could win it," Griffin said. "We kind of mixed our defense up and worked hard as a team to come together. Tonight, we made shots. We made big shots, that's why we won."
Maggie Cunningham made a jumper for the Hawks to cut the lead to 66-63 with 26 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds play, KeAris Vaughn caught a long pass and Cunningham was whistled for an intentional foul. Vaughn made both free throws to push the lead to 68-63. She was then fouled on the next possession and made two more free throws to seal the win.