CANBERRA Capitals coach Carrie Graf has lambasted her star players’ first-half efforts after a disappointing 81-68 defeat to the Sydney Uni Flames in Albury on Saturday night.
The Caps were their own worst enemy against the Flames, with a litany of missed and forced passes throughout the opening 20 minutes of play at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre leading to a 12-point half-time deficit they never recovered from.
A decidedly unimpressed Graf didn’t hold back after the game, saying “four or five of our players didn’t come with the right focus”.
The WNBL’s all-time winning coach was displeased with young pivots Alex Bunton and Carley Mijovic but reserved her most scathing criticism for stars Nat Hurst and Abby Bishop.
Despite six turnovers, Hurst improved after half-time to finish with 15 points, seven boards and six assists, but fellow Australian Opal Abby Bishop struggled all night, eventually fouling out with just seven points and six rebounds to her name.
“We have a scouting report for a reason,” Graf said.
“That takes thinking and action and we didn’t get it done, particularly our baby bigs tonight.
“They weren’t good; I’m a huge fan of both Bunton and Mijovic and they’re both going to be wonderful young players but they were sub-par with their focus tonight.
“And I have to say our star players, Hurst and Bishop, weren’t quite there tonight.
“They got better in the second half; you give them a rev and speak to them about their focus and to their credit they stepped up but the horse had already bolted.”
Canberra never really had an answer for tough-as-nails playmaker Alicia Poto, who poured in a game-high 19 points as the Flames enjoyed a fourth successive win to improve to 5-6.
Forward Lauren King and guard Katie-Rae Ebzery proved more than effective foils for Poto, with 17 and 13 points respectively.
A final turnover count of 21, compared to just 12 for the Sydney outfit, meant Canberra was never really in the hunt after a relatively even first quarter.
The defeat dealt Canberra’s playoff hopes a savage blow, with Graf condemning the Caps’ continual poor passing as “a killer”.
“Story of the game, you’re not going to win any game with 21 turnovers,” Graf said.
“And only two offensive rebounds was a killer; but the turnovers, some due to pressure but a lot due to really poor decisions.
“We threw it straight to the opposition, no arc on our passes to the bigs, poor decisions, we’re just not going to win games doing that.
“Four or five of our players didn’t come with the right focus, either too tight or too loose and we can’t play games like that.
“We missed obvious things on the scouting report, we missed block-outs and our turnover rate was just a killer.”
Canberra has the bye this weekend before tackling the Queensland road double for the second time in three weeks against Townsville and Logan.