Everything about Friday’s clash against Louisiana-Monroe felt like a trap game for the Wichita State women’s basketball team.
Playing an overmatched opponent at Koch Arena in a low-intensity atmosphere just days following an emotional loss at Tennessee, WSU summoned its best long enough to coast to a 57-42 victory.
Wichita State improved to 7-3, but created more questions than answers in the process. The star player seemingly content with a sub-par offensive performance, a zone offense that relapsed to bad habits, and — most troubling of all — a bench that continues to give very little production.
“When I make substitutions, that’s when we find ourselves getting into a little bit of trouble at this point,” WSU coach Jody Adams said. “But I do expect that to change.”
Reserves Kayla White, Jaleesa Chapel, Brittney Martin, Moriah Dapprich and Aundra Stovall all have failed to develop to this point, or at least earn Adams’ trust to play meaningful minutes in games.
All are averaging less than 15 minutes per game, which is putting heavy mileage on the starting unit early in the season, and the five players have combined to score 48 points in this season’s first 10 games (the starters have accounted for nearly 92 percent of the offense).
Even against ULM, a team with an RPI of 302, the bench could only muster three of the team’s 57 points. No one other than Chapel played more than eight minutes.
“I couldn’t go to my reinforcement group off the bench in the second half,” Adams said. “I didn’t feel like they were ready from today’s shootaround. There’s a little bit of inconsistency there, and some growth that needs to happen rather quickly for this program.”
With only two games remaining before the start of conference play, time is running out before their performance, or lack thereof, could begin hurting Wichita State.
“I’ve asked our bench to make a big turnaround in their production for this team,” Adams said. “Because I’m going to need to be able to play them in the near future.”
Wichita State was able to win Friday because it shredded ULM’s man defense in the first 15 minutes, jetting out to a 29-10 lead under a barrage of three-pointers from Alie Decker (14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals).
Decker, who has made nine three-pointers in her last two games, has developed a knack hitting threes coming off flare screens. Decker receives the ball at the top of the key, make a simple pass to the wing, then runs her defender into a screen set by either Kelsey Jacobs or Michaela Dapprich while flaring out to the opposite wing.
“(Decker’s defender) usually doesn’t know the screen is coming,” Dapprich said. “And if we get a solid screen, then we’re going to pass it to her and she’s going to shoot it and score.”
A simple play, but one that is made effective by the details Adams constantly stresses.
“It’s taking the ball below the free-throw line, passing it, waiting for the screen,” Decker said. “It’s the inches.”
But those inches were lacking when ULM switched to a basic zone defense that befuddled WSU for the final 25 minutes of the game. The Shockers moved with the zone instead of exploiting the seams and crumbling it with inside touches. ULM never seriously threatened, but WSU never seriously finished off the Warhawks, either.
After taking that 29-10 lead, Wichita State scored just 28 points on its final 35 possessions with 13 turnovers mixed in. Alex Harden played her most passive offensive game of the season, scoring a season-low four points on 2-of-10 shooting with four turnovers.
“I think your best player should show up every night and that’s the bottom line,” Adams said.
It was a complaint about a player, but could have easily been a critique of the team on Friday.
LOUISIANA-MONROE (4-4): Gray 1-5 2-4 4, Brooks 3-10 2-2 8, Wharton 3-6 2-2 8, Davis 1-4 1-2 4, Aune 0-2 0-1 0, Countiss 0-1 2-2 2, Hunter 3-5 0-0 6, Beard 1-1 0-0 2, Chase 0-1 0-0 0, Tieuel 4-13 0-2 8. Totals 16-48 9-15 42.
WICHITA STATE (7-3): Jacobs 2-5 5-6 9, Mi. Dapprich 5-5 4-4 16, Bonner 4-12 2-2 11, Decker 5-11 0-0 14, Harden 2-10 0-0 4, Stovall 0-0 0-0 0, White 0-1 0-0 0, Martin 0-0 0-0 0, Chapel 1-2 0-0 2, Mo. Dapprich 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 19-46 12-14 57.
Halftime—Wichita State 30, Louisiana-Monroe 14. Three-point shooting—ULM 1-8 (Davis 1-2, Aune 0-2, Tieuel 0-4), WSU 7-16 (Decker 4-9, Mi. Dapprich 2-2, Bonner 1-4, Harden 0-1). Rebounds—ULM 36 (Brooks 9), WSU 28 (Decker 7). Assists—ULM 10 (Three tied at 2), WSU 16 (Decker 5). Fouls—ULM 20, WSU 15. A—1,467.
Winthrop women at Wichita State
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Koch Arena
Records: Winthrop 5-4, WSU 7-3