On paper, Jody Adams' second Wichita State women's basketball team started the same way her first team did last season — they posted identical 8-3 non-conference records.
But as the Shockers showed in their 74-64 victory over Northern Iowa to kick off Missouri Valley play on Thursday night at Koch Arena, the similarities end there.
After bringing in eight recruits, Adams has assembled a crew of her own players. The players have bought into the system. The players trust the coaches.
No sequence better illustrates it than in the final minutes of the game.
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Jazimen Gordon, who posted her second consecutive double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds, motioned to Adams to pull her because of fatigue.
"No, you've got to continue to fight," Adams told her. "We can't afford for you to come out."
Gordon kept playing. She grabbed two crucial rebounds and essentially clinched the game with a basket to push the lead to nine points.
"You have to depend on it," Gordon said of the trust in the coaches. "It's like a mind game out there. You have to train your body to withstand and hold strong for your team."
"That right there, you adore that" Adams said. "You love that."
In the second half Thursday, the Shockers played like a team ready to compete in the Missouri Valley. WSU shot 51.7 percent and scored 45 points on its way to a season-high 74 points. The Shockers valued each possession, attacked the rim and converted at the foul line (14 of 16 in the second half).
Haleigh Lankster (17 points, all second half) and Morgan Boyd (game-high 21 points) were forces with their slashes to the rim.
"It all started with my teammates having confidence in getting me the ball and knowing I would get to the rim," Boyd said.
The turning point came with Wichita State clinging to a four-point lead midway through the second half. WSU failed to extend its lead several times, but forced five defensive stops before Lankster finally scored to push the lead to 55-49.
When Northern Iowa rallied to within three points with five minutes left, the Shockers were ready with a 10-2 run.
"I think our confidence really shot up (once the lead was six)," Lankster said. "I think that we all were thinking if we kept doing good on defense and getting in the passing lanes and getting boards, then we could get out and run on this team."
And now the Shockers have nine wins at the start of January.
"They had to trust us," Adams said of her players. "They had to trust us tonight would be a physical game and we had to play great defense and rebound the ball. When they trust us, I see great signs for this team."
NORTHERN IOWA (4-8, 0-1): Wubbens 0-1 0-0 0, Brocka 1-4 0-0 2, Boeck 7-15 1-1 15, Kalin 5-14 2-2 15, Clausen 4-13 0-0 10, Kirschbaum 0-2 2-2 2, Madrigal 1-1 2-2 4, Armstrong 4-7 1-4 11, Wypiszynski 1-8 3-3 5. Totals 23-65 11-14 64.
WICHITA STATE (9-3, 1-0): Boyd 8-15 5-6 21, Turner 2-5 0-0 5, Henderson 0-4 2-2 2, Johnson 4-7 4-4 12, Lankster 6-12 4-6 17, Diamond 1-5 0-0 3, Kemp 0-1 0-0 0, Price 0-0 0-0 0, Gordon 7-11 0-2 14. Totals 28-60 15-20 74.
Halftime—Wichita St. 29, Northern Iowa 28. 3 pt. shooting—UNI 7-22 (Kalin 3-8, Armstrong 2-4, Clausen 2-8, Brocka 0-1, Boeck 0-1); WSU 3-13 (Turner 1-1, Diamond 1-2, Lankster 1-4, Henderson 0-2, Boyd 0-4). Rebounds—UNI 39 (Brocka 14); WSU 40 (Gordon 14). Assists—UNI 12 (Kalin 3); WSU 18 (Henderson 8). A—1,442.