Women’s basketball must play stout defense to advance in NCAA tourney

The women’s basketball team has had an excellent season so far, but it will have to continue its hot streak of stout defense and ball movement if it wants to have a chance to advance to the next round of the NCAA tournament.

After winning the most games in program history, being named ASC champions for the second time  ever and  taking home the team’s first victory in the national tournament, the team finds itself in the Sweet Sixteen, where it will play the third ranked Bruins of George Fox University on Mar. 13. It has gotten there after giving up only 56.3 points a game, the best defense in the ASC.

George Fox, on the other hand, has been a juggernaut on offense. The Bruins come into the game posting a 29-0 record, averaging 74.6 points a game. To put that into perspective, only three teams in the ASC put up better scoring numbers this season.

Three players on their roster average double-digit points every game. Sophomore post Justine Benner leads the team with an average of  16.1 points a contest.

The good news is that UTD has faced a team very similar to the Bruins this season when it comes to offensive efficiency and has managed to come out on top for the majority of its match ups.

Conference rival UT Tyler came into the season as one of the top-ranked teams in the country and for good reason. This season, the Patriots averaged 80.2 points a game, had the largest margin of victory in the ASC and had five players who averaged double-digit points.

This season, the Comets went 3-1 against the Patriots, beating them in both the ASC Tournament championship game and the second round of the NCAA tournament. In the four games Tyler went head to head with UTD, it only managed to average 63.8 points per game, almost 20 points lower than its season average.

The Comets were able to do this by playing solid defense that didn’t allow opponents to get into the paint without a fight. UTD doesn’t do anything fancy like utilizing a full-court press or trapping players. To put it simply, the team is just fundamentally sound. There is always a body on the player with the ball and when the opposition tries to drive, the Comets dare them to try to get through the sea of hands that surround the basket when a shot goes up.

A huge part of this has been the play of UTD’s post players. Senior forward Ashley Shaw has gotten the starting nod this season, but she shares a lot of time sophomore forward Madison Steele, sophomore center Nicolette Erkman and sophomore forward Micaela Gonzalez in defending UTD’s hoop down low. Together, the group has put up 55 blocks this season, more than half of the team total of 101. Offensively, Shaw is the Comets’ third highest scorer, putting up 9.4 points a game.

The Comets may have not been the flashiest team in the country offensively, but they got the job done. UTD averaged 67.4 points a game, sixth in the ASC. They were led by senior guards Madi Hess and Amber Brown, who averaged 12.4 and 11.1 points a game respectively.

Hess and Brown can do it all on the floor, with Hess leading the conference in three-point shooting with 67 buckets from beyond the arc this season. She also leads the team with 213 rebounds. Brown, on the other hand, has an uncanny ability to drive it to the basket and her ability to get to the paint has helped  the Comets get out of several binds this season when Hess went cold shooting.

What casual observers might not understand about UTD’s offense is the fact that the Comets’ ability to score doesn’t stop with these two guards. Head coach Polly Thomason prides herself on the ability to switch out players and adapt to the situation presented to the team. In the second round tournament game against Tyler, UTD had seven players score, including senior guard Iemah Wallace-Perry, who picked up 22 points.

The Comets will need this help from the bench to beat the Bruins. One player who will have to step up in particular is senior guard Christina Brosnahan, who has zero points in the last two games after averaging 6.9 this season. If she can find her touch once again, the play of the guards will be hard for any team to stop.

This year, UTD has always been an underdog. The team wasn’t picked to win the ASC, it wasn’t expected to beat UT Tyler and it wasn’t expected to make it to the NCAA tournament, much less advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Heading into tomorrow’s game, the Comets will once again be in that ever familiar position of facing a challenge many think they can’t overcome. If UTD can play the same way they have against similar competition, the Comets may just continue dancing for one more day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *