Capitals coach Carrie Graf frustrated on the sidelines. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
The Canberra Capitals' WNBL season is in turmoil after the proud franchise crashed to arguably the most embarrassing loss in its history in Sydney on Friday night.
Canberra's demoralising 96-50 defeat to its fierce rival Sydney University is its all-time second biggest loss, behind only a 67-point thrashing against Perth in 1999.
But back then when the WNBL was in its formative years, Canberra was the competition's whipping girls.
Friday night's loss is more humiliating because the Capitals have a roster that shouldn't lose by such a margin, especially against a team which had won just two of 11 previous games this season.
Jess Bibby, Carly Wilson and Nicole Hunt have all played for the Australian Opals in the past, and Canberra possesses some quality youngsters.
The Capitals have now lost four-straight games, and have serious concerns on both ends of the court.
Their struggling offence committed 22 turnovers to Sydney's 11, the Flames winning the points off turnovers count 34-9.
And their defence is a shambles worryingly devoid of Canberra's usually trademark intensity, the backbone of its record seven championships.
The past month they've consistently been second to the loose ball and lacking in one-percenters, outenthused as well as outplayed.
In their defence the Flames were superb, shooting 53 per cent from the field to Canberra's paltry 30 per cent, with WNBA star April Sykes outstanding with a game-high 29 points.
Young centre Alex Bunton was absent through illness and guard Michelle Cosier carried a virus into the clash, but shattered Capitals skipper Bibby said there were no excuses.
''When you lose by that much there's not one thing you can pinpoint, there's obviously a lot of areas we need to address,'' Bibby said.
''There's a lot of things we have to fix as a group collectively, and we have to fix them quickly. The group's pretty stung by what happened tonight, you can't walk away from tonight and think everything's OK.
''But with the personnel we've got, it's certainly fixable.''
Forward Brigitte Ardossi (21 points, nine rebounds, two assists), clearly Canberra's best all year, was one of the few Capitals to leave the Harbour City with her reputation intact.
On their current form, not even the possible injection of Opals superstar Lauren Jackson into their line-up may be enough to salvage the Capitals' campaign.
Jackson is yet to take to the court this season and won't before Christmas at a minimum as she continues rehabilitation on a chronic hamstring injury.
Watching Friday night's debacle would have only added to her frustration, but the reality is the Capitals need to find a way to save their season without her.
Canberra (5-7) is now two games behind fourth-placed Bulleen after the Boomers (7-6) humbled cellar-dwellars West Coast 73-52 on Friday night.
Before last season, when they finished eighth, the Capitals hadn't missed the play-offs since 2004-05.
Next week the dreaded 'Doomsday Double' road trip awaits, West Coast on Friday night and third-placed Adelaide on Sunday.
Hopefully the soul-searching which unfolds in Capitals camp this week does the trick, because two losses would end any realistic hope of making the finals.
■ CAPS' BIGGEST LOSING MARGINS
67 - at Perth, Feb 12, 1999
46 - at Sydney last night
45 - vs Melbourne East, Sep 15, 1990
44 - at Melbourne East, June 22, 1990