Seventeen games into the season and the Wichita State women’s basketball team is leading the nation in scoring defense.
It’s not terribly surprising, considering defense is what coach Jody Adams demands from her players. But holding opponents under 50 points on average — 49.4 to be exact — is something that has impressed even Adams.
That number figures to be lowered on Friday night when Illinois State, with its 0-16 record and 47.2 scoring average in Valley play, come to Koch Arena to begin a weekend homestand for Wichita State (14-3, 5-0 Missouri Valley).
“To be No. 1 in the country, you’ve got to give the credit to the kids that have been in the program,” Adams said. “The players have been in the system, so you’ve seen our defense begin to evolve and we’re doing more things with it now. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
The Shockers tied their 31-year-old program record of 20 points allowed in a game in a 66-20 victory over Winthrop, and also held Arkansas-Pine Bluff to 26 points earlier this season.
But it’s not just against overmatched opponents. The Shockers held Creighton, Ohio State, Clemson, Kansas State, and Tennessee — the five teams from major conferences WSU played in the non-conference — to an average of 16 points under their season scoring average.
And that doesn’t include holding Florida Gulf Coast, one of the better mid-majors in the country, to 56 points — nearly 20 under its season average of 75.8.
“I think we have length and I think we have IQ in our defense,” Adams said. “You have multiple players that can guard multiple positions and when you have that, that’s what allows your defense to do so much more. They know how to maneuver their length to fit our system.”
Alex Harden and Jamillah Bonner are terrors in the Valley on the defensive end, as Harden is averaging 5.6 steals through five games and Bonner is third in the conference at 2.6 per game.
Senior Kelsey Jacobs has been equally as disruptive and Michaela Dapprich’s post defense has been crucial on a team that lacks size in its starting lineup. The improved defensive play of Alie Decker has solidified the starting unit.
“The whole scheme of the system has evolved to be able to do the things that we are doing this year,” Adams said. “We’re able to put in different packages of defenses because it’s been built from a base from one level and we’ve been able to take it another level.”
Illinois State women
at Wichita State
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Where: Koch Arena
Records: ISU 0-16, 0-5 MVC; WSU 14-3, 5-0