How do you survive 40 minutes of pressure from the Wichita State women’s basketball team?
That’s the question every team in the Missouri Valley Conference is in search for, as the Shockers have won their first 10 games in conference play. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, they are winning by an average margin of 20.1 points.
Loyola is next in line, as the newcomer to the conference will make its first appearance in Koch Arena on Sunday afternoon up against an 18-game winning streak by WSU.
“The type of defense we play for 40 minutes, you don’t get to go against that every day in practice,” WSU coach Jody Adams said.
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It’s clear that Wichita State’s defense is on another level, as it leads the Valley in points allowed (57.4), field goal percentage defense (37.2 percent), three-point percentage defense (23.3 percent), steals (10.9), and forced turnovers (19.3).
But what sets WSU apart from the rest?
“The pressure,” Bradley coach Michael Brooks said. “They have an enormous amount of 1-on-1 defensive pressure. And the only reason they can do that is they have a trust on the back side. They just have a cohesion.”
Adams’ man-to-man principles have defenders on the perimeter apply immense pressure. It raises the odds of WSU forcing a turnover, as well as masks its one true weakness -- lack of height -- by not allowing teams clean looks into the post.
The downside is that the defense is vulnerable when ball handlers are able to dribble penetrate and kick out to open jump shooters. But what makes WSU special is that, entering this weekend, it was second in the NCAA in three-point percentage defense.
“We move off each other very well,” WSU junior Kelsey Jacobs said. “We fly around out there. We are longer and we have bigger guards, so we just don’t give teams that open first look. Then we trust each other if they do put the ball down, then we have our help-side there.”
WSU has the athletes in Alex Harden, Jamillah Bonner and Jacobs to force the pressure, but it also has disciplined defenders behind them that are trained to rotate with impeccable timing.
There is a way to beat these Shockers. Brooks had a laundry list of things to do, such as keep Michelle Price off the glass, limit Harden’s impact on defense, make outside shots, and limiting turnovers.
Accomplishing that for one half has been done before. But doing it again for a second set of 20 minutes?
WSU’s record speaks for itself with how that’s gone for Valley opponents.
“Our pressure, I just think it wears and tears on you,” Adams said.