New year, new defense

Bradley Heltzel, Reporter

The women’s basketball coaches and players have been working improve team defense heading into the new season after last year’s lackluster performance, which contributed to the team’s last-place finish in Conference USA.

The Herd ranked 12th among the 16 teams in C-USA last season in points allowed per game having given up an average of 67.8 per contest.

In conference play, however, when numbers cannot be skewed from playing vastly inferior opponents, the Herd were even worse defensively as they ranked second to last in the conference in points allowed per game at 73.2. The only team that allowed more points per contest was FAU, and it compensated with an offense that finished third in C-USA in scoring.

Defensive improvement was a priority for the Herd this offseason after head coach Matt Daniel said during media day in October that he couldn’t stand watching the defense give up “an obscene amount of points” last season.

The coaching staff and the players have worked on multiple facets of the defense after last season’s poor showing. Assistant coach Devrinn Paul said the team has been working in areas such as defensive technique and footwork, transition defense and communication on that end of the floor.

Paul said the focus has been on developing defensive fundamentals and breaking down techniques specifically related to each player’s position. “We have been doing 15-20 minutes a day of guard, post split,” Paul said. “We are working on the techniques like closing out and defending off the dribble with the guards, as opposed to the post players who are working on getting to the level of the ball on a ball screen.”

Junior point guard Norrisha Victrum said playing with more energy will be a critical this season. She said that if the energy level is not to a certain level, it allows opposing offenses to feel more comfortable in executing their offensive sets. “Bringing energy is kind of like adding another person on the court and helps to get into the opponent’s head,” Victrum said.

Two other areas of emphasis during the offseason have been transition defense and communication. Paul said the Herd’s offensive strategy to put up shots quickly puts pressure on their transition defense as it provides opponents with the opportunity to get easy looks on fast breaks. “With the style we want to play, we have to be conditioned and get back in transition defense,” Paul said.

Victrum said the team is talking more in terms of communicating help defense as well as screens and basket cuts from the offense. She said not only is the team talking more, but said it’s figuring out how to say things in order to provide more clarity on what the opposing offense is doing.

“Communication is a key component of what we are putting together,” Paul said. “I feel like our communication level has risen dramatically since last year.”

The Herd have dedicated themselves to defensive improvement through time and effort in practice, but as Paul pointed out, “we also haven’t played a game yet.”

Bradley Heitzel can be contacted at heltzel@marshall. edu.