Very little of what the Wichita State women’s basketball team accomplished in its 61-37 victory over Air Force at Koch Arena on Sunday afternoon can be considered improvement.
The Shockers, who improved to 4-2, provided the bare minimum on offense — they shot 38 percent from the field and committed 18 turnovers — and once again relied on their superior athleticism to crush an over-matched opponent.
But what resonated on Sunday and may not have been exclusive to playing Air Force, a winless team picked to finish last in the Mountain West, was a devastating full-court press that featured 5-foot-11 Alex Harden, 6-1 Michelle Price, and 6-2 Kelsey Jacobs swarming ball handlers.
That press, which forced many of Air Force’s 25 turnovers, is something the Shockers can use against anyone.
“It did some great things for us today,” WSU coach Jody Adams said. “We’re working on trusting our teammates through those presses because we have two people on the ball and we’re playing disadvantaged defense off the ball. But I really like what I saw, for the most part.”
When teams are baited into dribbling or passing into a corner against the press, WSU was effective in sending a combination of Harden, Price, and Jacobs with the one off the ball playing rover in search of the potential passing lane.
On Sunday, it was Jacobs that played the role of bandit to perfection. The redshirt junior finished with her best defensive game of her career, tying her career-best with four blocks and setting a new best with five steals.
“When Michelle and Alex are in the trap, my job is to be an anticipator,” Jacobs said. “I’m going to use my length and my quickness to look for steals off the pass because Michelle and Alex are so long the ball is going to lob.”
While Air Force occasionally solved the press and caught the Shockers compromised for an easy basket, far more times its attempts to cross half-court ended in an errant pass.
Price and Harden combined to add five more steals.
“When they did their job,” Adams said of the trappers, “(Air Force) didn’t get by.”
The issue for Wichita State was it took a step backward offensively coming off its eight-day break. Another zone defense left the Shockers clanking shot after shot, as they struggled to a 25-15 halftime lead and scored a field goal on just seven of its 45 possessions.
Jamillah Bonner and Alie Decker led the team in scoring with 10 points, while Price added nine points and nine rebounds.
“I think some of the open shots that we are missing is because we’re thinking too much,” Adams said. “We’re not score-ready.”
The lone offensive highlight from the game came from freshman Moriah Dapprich, who registered the best game of her young career with eight points on 3 of 4 shooting, eight rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block in 23 minutes.
“I’m starting to see more looks and it’s starting to slow down,” Dapprich said. “I’m beginning to understand the plays more.”
While the near double-double was an impressive stat, Adams was more impressed with how Dapprich played with the upperclassmen on the court.
“She blended in right with them,” Adams said. “It was really good to see her blend in like that.”
AIR FORCE (0-5): Blagowsky 1-5 0-1 2, Fotsch 2-9 0-1 4, Philpot 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 1-2 0-0 2, Byrd 1-3 0-0 2, Lujan 4-9 0-0 8, Graham 0-0 0-0 0, Lewis 2-3 3-6 7, Thompson 4-10 4-6 12. Totals 15-42 7-14 37.
WICHITA STATE (4-2): Bonner 3-9 4-5 10, Jacobs 1-3 4-6 6, Harden 3-8 2-2 8, Price 4-8 1-4 9, Mi. Dapprich 1-4 6-6 8, White 0-1 0-0 0, Agnello 0-1 0-0 0, Decker 4-10 0-0 10, Preston 0-0 0-0 0, Chapel 1-5 0-0 2, Mo. Dapprich 3-4 2-2 8. Totals 20-53 19-25 61.
Halftime—Wichita State 25, Air Force 15. Three-point shooting—AFA 0-4 (Lujan 0-1, Thompson 0-1, Blagowsky 0-2), WSU 2-7 (Decker 2-6, Mi. Dapprich 0-1). Rebounds—AFA 26 (Fotsch 8), WSU 42 (Price 9). Assists—AFA 10 (Blagowsky 5), WSU 11 (Harden 3). Fouls—AFA 21, WSU 18. A—1,350.