Rick Stein on Hackert, Carpenter, Miller

The All-Great Lakes Valley Conference women’s basketball team for 2013-14 features three USI players: juniors Anna Hackert (first team, all-defensive team) and Autumn Miller (all-defensive team) and senior Stephanie Carpenter (second team). Following is coach Rick Stein’s thoughts on their selection:

Junior forward Anna Hackert – What a great accomplishment for Anna. Her numbers just keep rising every year. Since she’s been here, so have our win totals. We’ve gotten more overall wins this year (19), more conference wins (12), a higher finish in the East. I think one of the biggest smiles on Anna’s face was (being named to) that all-defensive team. Anna’s all about winning. She’s gonna do whatever she can to help our team win.

Junior guard Autumn Miller (first year on the team) – A lot of times a new player doesn’t get seen as much because they haven’t been around the league two, three, four years. I’m obviously proud of her. It’s awesome to see her name on that list. When Autumn is dialed in defensively, we are definitely a much better defensive team. Not only has she helped us be a good defensive team but she’s helped us be a great defensive team.

Senior guard Stephanie Carpenter (USI’s career record holder for 3-pointers made) – Her career here has obviously been an outstanding one. She’s our No. 1 3-point shooter. Her work ethic is second to none. She’s such a competitor. Over the last month of play she’s gone from being a really good player to one who has elevated her game more. On this five-game winning streak, she’s in the middle of some of the best basketball she’s ever played. That’s not just shooting the ball, that’s basketball.

For USI women, it should be home sweet home

Expect the USI women’s basketball team to play a home game in the first round of the GLVC Tournament, probably on Sunday. If the Eagles win, they’ll advance to the quarterfinals, which will start Thursday at the Ford Center. And USI has a good shot at winning no matter which team it hosts.

At this point, Drury most likely will be the No. 1 seed and Lewis No. 2. Quincy probably will be No. 3 and either Indianapolis or Missouri-St. Louis will probably be the No. 4 seed. I think the Eagles are going to end up No. 6, which means they will probably host a team not only with a losing record but a team they have already defeated, maybe William Jewell or Missouri-S&T.

If USI beats visiting Bellarmine on Thursday night, the Eagles will enter the tournament on a four-game winning streak. That would tie its longest winning streak of the season (it started the season with four straight victories, but all were easy double-digit wins).

The key, I think, has been the much improved play of senior guard Stephanie Carpenter, who has averaged 17.8 points per game — and 51.2 percent (20-for-39) from 3-point range — over her last five games. The only concern came during USI’s last game, when she scored just eight points, going 1-for-5 from 3-point range. For the Eagles to advance far into the GLVC tourney — never mind the NCAA Tournament — they need Carpenter hitting shots from long range. It negates a lot of the double- and triple-teaming on the GLVC’s leading scorer, Anna Hackert. Besides, it’s how USI is designed to play the game, inside-out.

USI meets run and gun

Rick Stein believes that  his USI women’s basketball team will have its hands full Saturday night against a team that presses the entire game and, when it’s not pressing, is creating half-court traps. Davis & Elkins, a Division II school from West Virginia, comes to the PAC for a 7:30 tipoff, but only has a 1-2 record despite averaging 84 points per game. It’s losses were 81-77 to Walsh and 98-85 to Lake Erie before a 91-80 win over Pitt.-Johnstown on Nov. 5. So the Senators will have been off for two weeks when they meet the Eagles.

Stein noted that D&E forces an average of 26 turnovers per game. But the Senators are averaging 22 themselves. They’re also shooting just 36.7 percent from the field, while the opposition is shooting 39.4 percent. Furthermore, opponents have sunk nine more 3-point baskets than D&E, 29-20, while the Nats are just 20-for-84 — that’s a microscopic 23.8 percent — from 3-point land.

The individual numbers are highlighted by Stephanie Wooten, a 5-7 freshman averaging 17.7 points per game, and Alicia Lentz, a 6-3 senior averaging 10.0 points. But this is shaping up as a high-scoring contest, although I think USI will have the high score by a significant margin. The Eagles’ defense should make it most difficult for D&E to get settled and set up, and USI’s offense should be quick enough to beat the press and get numerous easy layups. That said, the Eagles can’t get sloppy on offense and lazy on defense, and that goes for any opponent.

Quotes from the USI-UE women’s basketball exhibition

USI junior forward Anna Hackert, on playing against former Memorial High School teammate Mallory Ladd, now a star player for the University of Evansville: “It just felt like I was playing just another player.”

Ladd on Hackert (courtesy of my colleague and UE beat writer Colleen Thomas): “Anna’s a great player. She’s tough. They’re going to have a great season. It was a battle down there. She’s a strong girl, she’s smart and she finished well, so we really had to focus in and bring the double in on her to force errors.”

USI coach Rick Stein: “We could have practiced for 10 hours (Saturday) and not gotten out of it what we got out of this game. Evansville is similar to teams we’ll play in our league. With the way they play defense and their motion offense, we’ll see that a lot. This is the best (preparation) we could have had.”

Fouls and college basketball

Expect lots of whistles this season. A new emphasis on penalizing hand checks by defenders — just brush your fingers across the backside of any ball handler and you can expect a foul to be called — was evident in Saturday’s exhibition basketball game at the Ford Center between USI and the University of Evansville women’s teams. Officials called 51 personal fouls in that game, 30 on UE and 21 on USI. That resulted in 60 free throws and slowed the contest down considerably.

There’s already been plenty of hand-wringing about this. What an awful decision, people are saying. Touch fouls will become the rule. The game will slow to less than a crawl. Our ears will be ringing with all the shrill whistles.

The idea is to create more offense. Forcing defenders to play hands off will allow more drives to the hoop and closer shots. Hence, more offense, higher scores.

The NBA instituted this rule several years ago. It took a short while to get used to it, but there’s not much complaining about it now. Expect the same in college hoops. Suddenly, players will have to learn how to play defense by positioning their feet and their bodies instead of playing like a defensive back in football. In other words, the game will be played as it was supposed to be played — with your brain rather than with brawn.

You’ve got 10 seconds

That’s how long a women’s college basketball team will have to get the ball past the mid-court stripe this season. Of course, the men’s game has had this all along. But it’s new for the women’s game since it instituted the 30-second shot clock years ago. That should make it more likely that teams will now press more. And I would think that would be right up USI’s alley.

With a coach who spent his assistantship under Chancellor Dugan and her full-court pressing teams, this could get extremely interesting for Screaming Eagles fans. Granted, USI doesn’t have the sort of players it had in the mid-1990s … or does it? The Eagles haven’t really needed to press, which has become something you did against obviously overmatched teams or late in a game when you needed steals and quick baskets. Maybe the 10-second rule will change that. It’s a fact that the women’s game rarely has the ball handlers that the men’s game has. Forcing the issue could turn that weakness into a major advantage for teams that press. I’d look for the press to return, especially for USI.

The pods and USI women’s hoops

USI women’s basketball coach Rick Stein appears to like them, mostly because the pods idea — four teams grouped together that play each other home and away during the season — allows teams to play everyone in the GLVC. That hasn’t happened in nine years. The USI women, like the mens’ team, are group with Indianapolis, Bellarmine and Saint Joseph’s. Indy and Bellarmine are always good in women’s hoops while St. Joe recently hired former Drury coach Steve Harold, who was 129-52 in six seasons at Drury, going 81-27 in the GLVC.

“We’ve had divisions, but we hadn’t played each other,” Stein told me. “I don’t think anybody wanted to overload a schedule and only play conference games. Then you miss out on some other teams in the (Midwest) region. This seemed to be the best answer.”

At the very least it should help coaches select all-conference teams. “When you’re not seeing a team and not seeing their players, when it comes to postseason awards, how can you vote for somebody you’ve never even seen or played?” said Stein.

New Albany guard signs with USI women

New Albany guard Tanner Marcum has signed with the USI women’s basketball team, according to a tweet – forwarded to me by one of the Courier & Press’ intrepid sports reporters, Jonathan Lintner – that quotes New Albany coach Tammy Geron. The 5-8 Marcum averaged 22 points, 5.4 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 steals for the Bulldogs during her senior season. Marcum ended up third on New Albany’s all-time scoring list with 1,216 points as well as second in career steals (318) and third in career assists (336). She also was named to the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Southern Indiana All-Area team. I heard that USI coach Rick Stein had not yet seen her signed letter of intent. According to NCAA rules, he cannot comment until USI officially receives that signed letter.

Region rankings, updated

The USI men fell from fourth to sixth in the latest Midwest Region rankings, with Wayne State moving up to fourth and Michigan Tech up to fifth. Drury remained first, Bellarmine second and Wisconsin-Parkside third. Kentucky Wesleyan is still ninth and needs to rise at least one spot to have a chance at getting into the NCAA Tournament (eight teams receive berths, which are given out the night of March 10, which is the final day of the GLVC Tournament at the Ford Center).

As for the USI women, they remained 10th in the region. At this point it seems like they will have to win the GLVC Tournament title to get into the NCAA tourney.

USI women and the GLVC Tournament

USI’s women’s basketball team will have to win a play-in game on Sunday if it is going to participate in the GLVC Tournament at the Ford Center March 7-10. And they’ll have to win it on the road.

No matter how you slice it, the Eagles (17-8 overall, 9-8 GLVC) can’t be any higher than a No. 9 seed for the tournament, and they could end up as low as a No. 11. At the moment USI is 10th. At this point, the Eagles could be traveling to Missouri S&T, Quincy, Wisconsin-Parkside, Indianapolis, Missouri-St. Louis or William Jewell. They haven’t played S&T or William Jewell. As for the others, USI has beaten Missouri-St. Louis at the PAC, lost at Quincy, beat UIndy at the PAC and lost to the Greyhounds on the road, and lost both games to Parkside, which turned out to be the two worst defeats USI has suffered this season. The scenarios are complicated at the moment, so I won’t go into them. Just say that a win over Kentucky Wesleyan on Thursday night at home would help the Eagles.

But if you still want predictions, here are two from USI sports information assistant Dan McDonnell. He figures that a USI win on Thursday will get it a date at Indianapolis on Sunday. If USI loses, he thinks the Eagles will play at Parkside. Frankly, neither one sounds appealing to me, but going to Indy would be a shorter trip and the Eagles have beaten the Greyhounds once.

For the record, Lewis, Kentucky Wesleyan and Maryville have secured first-round byes so far.