Simon Fraser's Ozi Nwabuko (centre) went 6-for-6 from the field Friday in the Clan's season-opening loss to the Drury Panthers of Missouri, the No. 1-ranked team in all of NCAA Div. 2 women's hoops. (File photo by Brad McLeod property of SFU Athletics 2019. All Rights Reserved)
Feature University Women's Basketball

SFU hoops: Clan lead with their Hart, but even Claudia Hart’s first career double-double not enough against NCAA D2’s No. 1 Drury Panthers

The Simon Fraser Clan said they wanted to start their 2019-20 women’s basketball season against the best competition they could find.

On Friday, they quite literally got just that.

Junior forward Claudia Hart put forth her first career double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds, however the Clan had a hard time early coming to grips with the speed and pressure defence of the No. 1-ranked team in the entire NCAA Div. 2 ranks, falling 78-60 to the Drury Panthers of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, at the CCA D2 Tip-Off Classic in Orange, Cal.

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“We’re turned it over 36 times, and a lot of them were forced,” admitted Clan head coach Bruce Langford, whose team was close early at 15-14, but saw things get out of hand following a spate of turnovers against the Panthers’ relentless full-court press and untimely fouls against the Clan backcourt.

Drury’s 13-0 run in the second quarter wound up being their signature in the victory as the Panthers, the national runners-up a season ago, won for the 40th straight time in the regular season dating back to January of 2018.

“They played with speed, they are fast-paced and deep,” said Langford whose team trailed 45-24 at halftime but outscored Drury 36-33 over the second half. “We’re not that far away, but right now, we’re not ready.”

After facing 40 minutes of pressure defence, Langford will urge and cajole the strengths of his line-up heading into Saturday’s 8:30 a.m. clash with Bismarck, N.D.’s powerful Mary Marauders.

Hart was terrific, and that was a huge positive sign for a Clan team looking for interior toughness and rebounding this season in the wake of Sophie Swant’s graduation.

Not only did the former North Vancouver-Seycove star register a double-double, she shot 8-of-10 from the field, including hitting on both of her three-point attempts, and she grabbed three offensive rebounds.

Inside-out threat and former GNAC Rookie of the Year Ozi Nwabuko added 14 points, shooting 6-for-6 from the field. Langford loved the efficiency, but said afterwards that the former PoCo-Riverside star needed to take things more into her own hands when the opportunities arose.

“She deferred too much today,” he said.

The Clan started both senior Tayler Drynan and junior Kendal Sands in their backcourt. Drynan dished six assists but Sands battled early foul issues.

With junior Jess Jones nursing an ankle injury, sophomore Georgia Swant moved into the starting lineup.

Clan pure freshmen Majella Carey, Jessica Wisotzki and Grace Killins all saw floor time, as did the sophomore group which included Justina Chan, Emma Kramer and Sophie Klassen.

Drury went 35-0 last season before losing in the national finals to Lubbock Christian. Junior forward Emily Parker came off the bench to lead the Panthers on Friday with 15 points.

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