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January 17, 2013 - Michael Bleach
HOUGHTON — To senior point guard Sam Hoyt, the 60-46 win over Ferris State Thursday and 76-64 loss at Grand Valley State Saturday highlighted one key variable that has swung wildly for the Michigan Tech women's basketball team this season.
Forty minutes of discipline.
Against Ferris, the Tech defense was focused and quick, forcing penetration into help and contesting shots effectively. Against Grand Valley, the Huskies not only allowed Briauna Taylor to drop a season-high 30 points, they failed to take away the complementary players, allowing the Lakers to shoot 50 percent for the game.
One game the discipline was there, the other it was not.
With five freshmen and sophomores — including two freshmen in the starting lineup — playing over 12 minutes per game, some consistency issues are to be expected.
But Hoyt made it clear in practice Wednesday that with five losses, the time for growing pains was past, and it would start with her and fellow senior Emma Veach's lead.
"I don't know what it has been, I wish I did," Hoyt said. "But we are trying to set the example for just playing hard every day, putting up extra shots after practice, getting after it on defense. We feel that if we do things the right way they will follow."
With Wayne State coming to the Student Development Complex today, the area Tech must maintain discipline in at all times is clear.
The Warriors have jumped out to a 7-2 record in conference — a half game behind Ferris State — due to an offense that collects 20 offensive rebounds per game. To beat Wayne State is to hold their shooters to one attempt per possession where they convert on 39 percent of all shots with just four threes made per game.
"Their post players get a ton of layups, and even when you get them to miss, they are hard to box out because you are trying to (defend) straight up and their post's automatic reaction is to go and jump right back and get it," Tech coach Kim Cameron said. "If you can get them to take a tough, contested shot and limit them to one opportunity you are giving yourself a great shot to win."
Of the utmost importance for the Huskies then will be the play of sophomore forward Jillian Ritchie, who despite usually giving up size in the post, ranks second on the team in rebounding and has grabbed six boards per game in GLIAC play.
Center Kylie Moxley may also swap with forward Dani Blake in the starting lineup to help combat the Warriors senior front court trio of Talisha Bridges (3.6 offensive rebounds per game), Juanita Cochran (3.5 ORPG) and Phaebre Colbert (2.8 ORPG).
"Jillian is going to find somebody, she is going to put a body on them and she is going to box them out," Cameron said. "We are not going to out-jump them so we have to put a body on someone every play and be disciplined with that."
In the past six games, Tech has shot 40 percent or less from the field going 3-3 in that stretch.
As a result, the Huskies hit the gym hard in between the Ashland and Ferris games last week, hoisting 11,151 extra shots (Cameron's count) after practice.
While the results didn't shine on the road trip downstate, Cameron is betting (hoping/praying) that her proven shooters will demonstrate their talent once more in a game.
"We are due for a breakout offensive game," Cameron said. "We have good shooters. We just need to start shooting better, as simple as that sounds."
Though leading the team with 14.6 points per contest, Hoyt has struggled as much as anyone — outside of the uber-efficient Moxley — and is connecting on just 37 percent of attempts from the field. In her last five games, Hoyt has made 23-of-78 shots (29 percent).
"Especially the past four or five games I have been just missing inside and not finishing my threes," Hoyt said. "But I am fine. My shot still feels good — which is actually what makes me the most frustrated because I feel like they should be going in — so I am going to keep shooting. They will go in. There is nothing to change except to keep shooting."
While the season has occasionally had a frustrating feel for Tech — with close losses against Minnesota Duluth and Indianapolis particularly painful memories — a win today would still put Tech in the driver seat in the GLIAC North Division, just a half-game behind Ferris (still to host the Bulldogs at home).
"We need to look ahead," Hoyt said. "Learn from the past obviously, but we can still do everything we want to do if we just start winning."
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