Women’s basketball looks to improve defense from last season

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Women’s basketball looks to improve defense from last season

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

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Last season Marquette women’s basketball was the 11th-worst team in defensive field goal percentage. This year, the Golden Eagles are making strides to fix that ranking and improve their defense.

“First and foremost we want to protect the paint,” head coach Carolyn Kieger said. “I think teams shot way too high of a percentage on us last year.”

On the perimeter, Marquette was significantly better, ranking 119th out of 349 teams in defensive 3-point percentage. The team was also much better at jumping into passing lanes. Senior guard Natisha Hiedeman led the team with 62 steals. Marquette as a team was ranked 30th in the nation in steals last year.

Hiedeman said that with the team’s press and defense they are playing, players are going to be in positions to get steals. As long as they are in the positions Kieger puts them in, the steals are going to come to them.

Kieger said they went over different ways to enhance the team’s defense during the offseason.

“A huge focus for us is closeouts, rotations, make sure we’re in help side, make sure we’re plugging the paint and not allowing people to just get easy high percentage shots,” Kieger said. “We’ve drilled it over and over in the summer.”

That includes communicating while rotating on defense. If a defender is beat by the offensive player, then a second defender needs to “rotate” over if they are on the “help side.”

“If we communicate on the floor, that’s going to be the biggest factor to help us win more games,” Hiedeman said. “You’re not just talking to the left or right of you, you’re talking to the whole team. If everybody on the floor is aware of what’s happening, we’re going to be able to get more stops and win more games.”

Junior guard Isabelle Spingola said Marquette’s vocality intimidates opponents. Kieger said she has high expectations for Spingola defensively.

“She’s somebody who’s really crashing the boards right now. She’s getting in her rotations (and) she’s defending the ball better than she has before,” Kieger said. “Obviously we all know she can shoot the ball, but it was her defensive side of the ball and the rebounding (that) she’s really improved and put a focus on in this offseason.”

Spingola said when she arrived at college, defense was something she had to work at because of the quicker tempo of the college game.

While Marquette is trying to improve mentally with communication, the team is also trying to be faster physically with conditioning.

“We have our strength coach, and she helped us a lot with conditioning,” senior forward Erika Davenport said. “With the things that she was putting us through, it will help us to be quicker laterally on defense and help us get the first step on defense.”

The conditioning allows Kieger’s squad to maintain its reputation as an extremely up-tempo team.

“If you’re going to play fast and you’re going to try to keep up with us, it is going to be a track meet,” Kieger said. “It’s going to be hard for you as an opponent to keep up if you don’t practice it every day.”

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