BELOIT - They say not to judge a book by its cover.
Well, don't bother judging one by its first draft, either.
Beloit College's women's basketball team didn't look much like it was pedaling a bestseller at the start of Wednesday night's season-opening 74-57 loss to Aurora University, but then head coach Gloria Bradley says it's still way early to try to size up her Buccaneers.
"We don't have the chemistry we need, but that's understandable since we haven't had the team together for more than about four practices," Bradley said. "We've had injuries that have kept people out. We've had players join the team late because they were in fall sports. So we have people playing who haven't practiced that much together. That's why they come out sluggish, nervous and indecisive."
The Bucs let Aurora take a commanding 26-8 lead in the first quarter. It didn't help that starting center Jaylan Dunn landed on the bench in foul trouble.
Way too many times Beloit stumbled through possessions until the 30-second shot clock nearly expired, forcing them to toss up a shot before the buzzer.
"We're just not fluid as a team yet," Bradley said.
They also weren't ready to roll over, thanks in large part to to the efforts of juniors Shelby Kline (28 points) and Candance Cunningham (25). Down 42-23 at halftime, the Bucs pulled within 10 in the third quarter, 53-43, and had it to nine, 63-54, in the fourth before Aurora pulled away.
"We didn't give up," Bradley said. "We came back and made a run at them in the second half. We played more aggressively. Some people started to get the feel for what we want them to do. We stiffened up on defense a bit. A lot of those 50-50 balls we were letting get by in the first half we starting to go after. We took the game to them more and that's the kind of team we want to be. We're not going to be one of the biggest or fastest teams around so we have to be one of the grittiest."
Kline hit 3-of-3 from behind the 3-point line and 8-of-16 overall from the field. She was 9-of-11 at the line and also pulled down seven rebounds. She also played 39 minutes and Bradley had to take her out to start the fourth quarter because she was gassed.
"She could hardly take a breath," Bradley said. "She really needed a break."
Bradley hopes in the future she has the outside shooter in Danielle Strejc who can step in for Kline.
"Dani literally had her first practice yesterday in two weeks," the coach said. "That's why she was out of sync tonight."
Cunningham played 28 minutes and was 13-of-19 from the free-throw line.
"Candace (Cunningham) has only had three practices," Bradley said. "Everything she does is on sheer effort."
Dunn, a senior who joined the team only about a week ago when volleyball ended, had nine points and four rebounds.
"I don't think we played to our potential, obviously," Dunn said. "We didn't come out strong. But we battled back in the second half. We're going to work hard in practice and tweak the things we need to. We have to find our chemistry. We'll work together and figure it out. We have to be able to get some more practice time to do that.
"We have work to do, but I think we can be good."
The Bucs may want to work a little more on free throws in practice, too. They shot a whopping 50 of them against the Spartans and converted 31.