Jody Adams paid her Wichita State women’s basketball team the ultimate compliment after its 57-47 victory over Northern Iowa at Koch Arena on Friday night.
After another Missouri Valley team went through the grinder of the Shockers’ defense and came out feeling equal parts beaten, frustrated and dismantled, Adams let it be known the team has ascended to a special territory when it comes to defense.
“If I had the opportunity to put a uniform on, I’d want to play with these guys,” said Adams, who considers herself a connoisseur of fine defense.
Wichita State has scored more than 67 points three times in conference play. It hasn’t had many games where the offense has flowed, but WSU doesn’t need to be a great — or even good — offensive team because of its defense.
Solving WSU’s defense is like a Rubik’s cube. There is a way to beat it, but it requires complicated moves and decisions. No Missouri Valley team has been able to solve it, as Wichita State’s 10-0 start is now good for a two-game lead after Creighton’s road at Indiana State on Friday.
“We’re a nightmare,” sophomore Alex Harden said bluntly. “When our tempo picks up and our offense is straight transition, you can’t stop it.”
A perfect example came at the end of the first half.
Northern Iowa was looking to extend a three-point lead on an open three-pointer from the wing. But Jessica Diamond came rotating out of nowhere to swat the shot out of bounds. After the inbounds pass, another switch occurred and Jazimen Gordon timed a block perfectly on an unsuspecting UNI guard to start a fast break that finished with a Harden lay-in at the other end.
Not much improved for the Panthers in the second half, who led by one at halftime but struggled through a 5-for-21 performance beyond the arc and a 29.5-percent shooting day overall.
Sixty-one cracks against WSU’s defense and all Northern Iowa could produce was 47 points. UNI was never again in striking distance in the final nine minutes.
“It’s our pressure,” senior Jessica Diamond said. “It makes it difficult for them to pass. And we’re always in passing lanes, then we’ve been working on ‘X-ing’ out. If someone gets free, we’re constantly moving. It makes it hard to get anything.”
Basically, all five of WSU’s defenders are constantly rotating, moving and harassing the other team. Adams has instilled a system where all the players work as a unit, even the ones who don’t consider defense their specialty.
“We have to trust in each other,” said Darice Fountaine, who had eight points and 10 rebounds off the bench. “I know I’m not the greatest defender, but I trust my teammates to help me out when I get beat. But I work on my defense every day and our team is working constantly to try to perfect it.”
Harden produced 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while the guard combination of Harden, Diamond and Fountaine combined for 26 rebounds to help buoy the Shockers’ 45-38 advantage on the glass.
Wichita State is now allowing 51.7 points, which is sure to improve the ranking of 12th in the nation it had entering the game.
“We take pride in it,” Diamond said. “Some teams are fueled by offense, but we’re fueled by our defense. We want to perfect it.”
NORTHERN IOWA (10-12, 5-5): Kalin 7-14 3-3 20, McDowell 0-6 0-0 0, Schonhardt 2-5 1-3 5, Brown 1-8 0-0 3, Keitel 3-7 2-2 8, Kirschbaum 3-8 0-0 6, Lamar 0-2 0-0 0, Davison 0-0 0-0 0, Donaldson 2-10 0-1 5, Morgan 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-61 6-9 47.
WICHITA STATE (16-6, 10-0): Jones 2-5 2-3 7, Diamond 3-10 5-5 11, Jacobs 0-0 0-0 0, Harden 7-15 2-6 16, Gordon 2-8 0-0 4, Fountaine 3-7 0-0 8, Price 1-2 0-0 2, Dapprich 3-7 1-2 9. Totals 21-54 10-16 57.
Halftime—Northern Iowa 23, Wichita State 22. 3 pt. shooting—UNI 5-21 (Kalin 3-6, Brown 1-3, Donaldson 1-5, Schonhardt 0-1, Morgan 0-1, McDowell 0-5), WSU 5-10 (Fountaine 2-2, Dapprich 2-4, Jones 1-1, Diamond 0-3). Rebounds—UNI 38 (Kirschbaum 11), WSU 45 (Fountaine 10). Assists—UNI 9 (Four tied at 2), WSU 10 (Diamond 6). Fouls—UNI 15, WSU 14. A—1,912.