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Stepping Up To The Plate

In my last post I promised a closer look at how we need to deal with KK's injury.  I couldn't make the South Dakota State game, so I'm going to cut down on the analysis of that game and look more at the season going forward.  Here's the Cliff Notes version:

Box Score

Player of the Game

Brittany Rayburn - 19 Pts, 6 Reb, 2 Ast, 7-9 FG

Came out hot to build the lead, then kept working to build it.

Game Balls

Drey Mingo- 17 Pts, 3 Ast, 2 Reb, 7-9 FG

Continued the trend of second half closer, scoring most of her points in the second half.

Antionette Howard- 15 Pts, 6 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl

Another excellent game off the bench for Antionette.

Team Defense- 20 pts in each half, 34% opp FG

This win means that we will face DePaul for the preseason NIT title on Sunday in Mackey.  Tip-off is two o'clock.  I expect to see all of you there.  All of you.  I will hunt you down.  TMill knows where you live. (awkward pause) More on that later...  This will be the first real test for this team (DePaul is just outside both polls), and how they handle it will tell us a lot about how this season will go.

And now for the title of the article...KK going down is a huge loss.  Anytime you lose a starter, it's tough to get back to that high level, especially when that starter is playing as well as KK was.  But it can be done, and it must be done.  So how will we do it?

3 Players Who Will Step Up

Courtney Moses -This one is obvious.  She needs to come in and basically fill KK's shoes on both ends of the floor.  She will likely see in excess of 30 minutes almost every night, and will face the responsibility of running the fast break that will be this team's bread and butter.  Also, she will be guarding the oppositions point, often for all 94 feet of the floor.  Fortunately, she comes from a fast-paced, full-court press team in Oak Hill, so I know she has the stamina and grit to do it.  Perhaps most importantly, but also least in a way, she will need to become a third or fourth scoring threat every game.  Let me explain that a little more.  If she drives and passes well enough, her feeds will become that threat, so actually scoring herself is of secondary.  On the other hand, this team needs her to knock down threes to keep the defense honest.  This season now hinges on her play.  It is her time to shine.

Drey Mingo - Drey will now be forced to transition from the third scoring option to the second, which is no mean feat.  As a third option, she was expected to take advantage of her opportunities, without being relied on on every third or fourth possession.  As one of two primary scorers, she will now face a lot more double teams and will be gameplanned against a lot more often.  On the other hand, she's shown she can handle the load, she just needs to be more consistent in getting and finishing touches.  Actually, I think the redistribution of the scoring will make us a more balanced team, because we got a little guard-heavy at times both this year and last.  Lastly, she must continue to crash the boards with authority, especially looking for putbacks.  Easy points, ladies and gentlemen.

Sam Ostarello - This one is a little less obvious, but as a player who was deserving of but still searching for minutes, Sam will most likely absorb most of KK's lost time (Courtney was going to see the floor a lot anyway).  As I mentioned in my last post, she seems to be looking to add to her range, and if she can shoot from the three position, Drey's lane gets much less congested.  Above all else, though, she needs to continue to go after rebounds like Kerrigan after a quarterback.  Any increase in her minutes immediately improves our rebounding at both ends, which will go a long way towards mitigating a major weakness from last year.  Scoring is all well and good, but she needs to just keep doing what she does best.

2 Things That Will Continue

Brittany Rayburn's general Rayburn-ness - I have to imagine coaching Brittany is a lot like coaching Kerrigan: "You know everything you're doing?  Keep doing it."  I have no doubt that Brittany will continue to be this team's E'Twaun.  15 points, 3 assists, 4 boards, and a steal.  Every night.  Or better.

Team Defense - The women don't have a "Defense Lives Here" sign yet, but they might as well.  They have yet to give up more than 66 points, all in fast-paced games where both teams get a lot of possessions.  If they keep after the opposition like they have been, it's going to lead to a lot of turnover-layups at the other end, while incidentally making Courtney's life much easier on the break.

1 Thing That Will Only Get Better

The Fans - You will not find a better atmosphere outside of places like Tennessee and UConn, where the women's teams are better than the men's (I'm looking at you, Bruce Pearl).  But why stop there?  We can do better.  I know we can.  I've seen the Paint Crew at full volume.  Hell, Lambert is one of the toughest volleyball courts in the country.  Why not Mackey?  Our band numbers about 170, the Gold Mine about 15-20 at any given game.  That ratio should be reversed.  Come out, students.  Be loud.  And alumni, you can play too.  Don't sit on your hands all game.  Make some noise.  When that one guy in the band (i.e., ME) is jumping up and down waving his arms for you to stand, STAND!  YELL!  SCREAM!  College basketball is a game like no other when it comes to crowds changing games.  Let's change a few this year.