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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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’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.
With its 13-point loss at home on Saturday to one of the worst teams in the GLVC, the USI women’s basketball team is all but out of the running for a berth in the NCAA Division II tournament. The only sure way for the Eagles, now 17-8 overall but just 9-8 in the league, to get in is to win the GLVC Tournament title at the Ford Center. They came into their last two games ranked 10th in the Midwest Region, then lost back-to-back games, the first at Bellarmine on Thursday night (the NCAA takes only eight teams into each regional). But this loss to McKendree University at the PAC — a team that had won its only two GLVC games against winless Saint Joseph’s — pretty much caps the season for USI.
Again, the culprit was terrible outside shooting. The Eagles hit just four of 25 3-point attempts, although it seemed far worse than that. They got open looks galore but couldn’t connect. What was worse was the overall shooting. Get off 73 shots, as USI did on Saturday, you should collect more than just 20 baskets. And this time Anna Hackert, she of the multiple double-double games in points and rebounds, finally had a bad game. She scored just one point, went 0-for-6 from the field and fouled out.
Next up is Kentucky Wesleyan at the PAC on Thursday night, the regular-season finale. It won’t be USI’s final game, like last year’s Wesleyan game was. The Eagles have qualified for the GLVC Tournament. But they will have to win a play-in game next Sunday, probably on the road, to get to the Ford Center. If they don’t improve, they won’t be playing in downtown Evansville.
I take it all back. USI’s Anna Hackert is not, I repeat NOT, in a slump. She just happened to have two off games and why not — even she’s human. But she’s an amazing human. Until Saturday’s win at Saint Joseph’s, USI had not had any outside shooting to speak of for the last nine games, going 31-for-136 from beyond the 3-point arc. Still, Hackert has continued to put up double-doubles in points and rebounds more often than not despite ferocious double-teaming and even triple-teaming. After those two aforementioned “bad” games she threw down 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Indianapolis, then came back with 13 points and 13 boards against St. Joe. Those give her nine double-doubles for the season. For the year she’s averaging 15.0 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. Numbers like that must mean she’s a lock for first team all-GLVC and all-Midwest Region. She might even have a good shot at being named a D-II all-American.