Women’s basketball works to correct uneven tournament play

Junior guard Brittany McPherson, right. The Chapman women’s basketball team opened their season Nov. 8 at the Redlands Tip-Off Classic in Redlands, California, losing their first game against St. Catherine University and winning the second against Southwestern University. CASSIDY KEOLA Staff Photographer

Up and down the floor they went, the ball failing to find a shred of net. Time and time again, the Chapman women’s basketball team suffocated their opponents on defense, creating turnovers and rebounds – only to dribble up the floor and eventually heave shot after shot that clanked off iron. On Nov. 8, the Chapman women’s basketball team opened their season with two games in two days at the Redlands Tip-Off Classic in Redlands, California. Despite splitting their two games – with a 58-42 loss against Minnesota’s St. Catherine University and 73-60 win over Texas’ Southwestern University – players and coaches know there’s still plenty of work to be done to get back to the standard that past iterations of the team have set.

Over the first two games, the team made just 29.4 percent of their shots from the floor, well below their mark of 41 percent the prior season. “Our defense was slow, our rotations were slow, our rebounding wasn’t great and our shooting could improve,” senior forward Lucy Criswell said of the team’s performance.

“But we have two weeks.” Two weeks before their next game against Oregon’s George Fox University on Nov. 22 – to try and get back to their level of execution in the 2018-2019 season, in which they posted a 23-5 record.

“My biggest goals are always to have winning seasons because I want the girls to know what it feels like to be champions. That’s a big thing for our team,” said Carol Jue, the team’s head coach. “I expect high level basketball.”

Prior to their tour of Oregon beginning the weekend of Nov. 22 – playing three games in four days against Oregon’s George Fox University, Lewis and Clark College and Warner Pacific University – the team has already had a week of training to perfect defensive rotations and systematic movement on offense. Senior captain Marissa Dunn is confident about the upcoming matches, citing the team’s high-energy practices as tools for success.

“If you practice how you’re going to play, it’s not that hard to beat your opponent. Coach always says that we can beat anyone if we really put our mind to it,” Dunn said. “With that mentality, I don’t think we’ll have any problems going into these next games in Portland.”

Jue cited defense as the traditional focus of the program, which has contributed to a track record of success in helping the team compile a winning record in every season since 2003. The emphasis is echoed in practice with drills like “Oakland,” where 10 players are selected to be offensive and defensive players who work to prevent the other team from scoring, by using communication to improve transition defense. Jue’s coaching emphasizes a proactive effort, with defenders looking to slow their opponents before they gain the slightest shred of momentum.

After their three-game road trip, the team will play out-of-conference opponents like Indiana’s DePauw University Dec. 15 and Massachusetts’ Amherst College Jan. 1. Dunn and Criswell agreed that these games allow the team a good chance to observe different playstyles and prepare for more difficult teams, prior to their home-stretch, 14-game string of conference opponents beginning Jan. 4.

“You want to peak in January, because that’s when you want to get to the conference tournament,” Jue said about the team’s season-long strategy. “Our goal is to win the conference tournament so we can get back to the (Division III tournament).”