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Difference between good and great
January 9, 2013 - Michael Bleach
HOUGHTON — With the Ashland defeats Saturday — the men delivering and the women succumbing — GLIAC inter-division play is now officially at an end.
North teams will only play North teams for now on.
South teams will lose to Findlay men and Ashland women.
With battles between Ferris St., Grand Valley St. and Wayne St. all on the horizon, all seems right in the Division II hoops world of Michigan and Ohio.
Now is as good a time as ever to take a bigger picture look back at the season for Tech.
The men’s team on offense: 72.5 points per game, 50.5/36/70 shooting, more assists than turnovers and 1.12 points per possession (which would be a top 20 mark among Division I schools for reference).
The women’s team on offense: 73 points per game, 42/39/77 shooting, more assists than turnovers and 1.02 points per possession (an average mark.)
So what has been the difference between a men’s team making a run at the GLIAC title and a women’s team struggling to find their flow?
A focal point.
The men’s team bases virtually everything it does through the prism that no defender can guard Ali Haidar one-on-one (and it should be noted, in the GLIAC, this is an accurate assertion.) Every possession with Haidar on the floor forces the defense to make a choice. Do you leave your best big to try and bang with Haidar one-on-one or do you send help?
Through this decision alone, the Huskies gain the upper-hand. If the opponent sends extra help towards Haidar, the defense is compromised and proper ball-movement* and decision-making almost always results in a good shot, often an open three. Alex Culy, Ben Stelzer, Austin Armga, Phil Romback and Jordan Chartier all benefit immensely from this arrangement.
*It is obviously more nuanced than this and the phrase “proper ball-movement” doesn’t do justice to the guards ability to handle pressure or pass into the post. But that is a whole different blog post in itself.
If the defense rolls the dice and leaves Haidar by himself, well, let’s just say GLIAC forwards must flinch at the sight of a lefty-jump hook at this point.
For the women, however, that go-to scorer is missing and it has thrown everything else out of whack. No one player has forced the defense to compromise itself just by touching the ball.
Should it be senior point guard Sam Hoyt? Hoops history has not looked kindly on teams where the point guard is also the best scoring option. Juggling the responsibilities of setting teammates up, directing the offense, breaking pressure — which Tech has seen a lot of this year — all while having the offense run through your hands is a lot to ask of any player, even one as talented as Hoyt.
The senior currently leads the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game, but she is shooting 39 percent to get that 15.
So how about Taylor Stippel? I believe — repeat: this is my opinion, not something Cameron has shared with me — that Cameron would prefer Stippel take the reins and that at the beginning of this season the plan was for Stippel to act as option No. 1.
But the junior has struggled in her transition from impact sub to starter, and though she leads the team in field goal attempts, she is converting on just 39 percent of those (all 2-pointers) and averages less than one free throw attempt per game.
Be it a shift in philosophy, a lack of confidence, defensive lapses or a lease in Cameron’s dog house, Stippel played just 24 minutes total in the past two games, scoring two points on 1-of-8 shooting.
So far, the team has looked most potent offensively when true freshman Kylie Moxley is dominating down low. But reflecting her true freshman status, Moxley swings pretty wildly (and understandably) on the consistency scale and a defensive rawness has limited Cameron’s trust in her to play a lot of minutes.
And it is very rarely a good thing if a true freshman is the best option over an entire season.
Continuing with my self proposed and answered questions — what is the solution?
No idea. But knowing, Cameron, she won’t stick with the status quo.
Cameron gave Hoyt the day off from practice Tuesday to try and give her senior a mental and physical break. Hoyt certainly showed last year she could wear many hats — I hope literally; that would be awesome — and Cameron may be trying to spark some magic from the only Husky ever to manage a triple-double.
Perhaps a game coming off the bench for Stippel could serve to jump-start the junior. Last season, as a super sub, Stippel provided an offensive punch by taking the ball to the hoop around bigger, but slower defenders. The reverse lay-up was practically her bread and butter. This season though, Stippel has served primarily as a jump-shooter from 15-to-18 feet. Perhaps a conscious return to attacking the rim or renewed emphasis on a pick-and-roll/pop game with Hoyt could shake Stippel from her shooting woes,
If the Tech women can find that focal point, they have plenty of other strong pieces that will slide neatly into place.
Senior Emma Veach is the ideal shooting guard for an inside-out offense nailing 52 of her threes. Paige Albi has yet to shoot the ball well this year (32/24/67), but her offensive rebounding acumen and badassitude serve well in complement. MacKenzie Perttu and Moxley can provide the instant-offense from the bench.
As it stands, there is little reason to panic for the Huskies. They sit at 8-4 and their past two losses were to the No. 1 and No. 7 team in the country. But the Tech women hold themselves to a high standard, and the current offense has not met it. The Huskies are good, but not yet great. A focal point to focus on might change that.
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