Leading the Missouri Valley at the midway point is becoming customary for the Wichita State women’s basketball team.
Including this season’s 9-0 start, which is part of a program-best 17-games winning streak, WSU is 26-1 in the first meeting against Valley teams in the last three seasons.
What these Shockers will be striving for when they open their stretch run against Bradley on Friday night at Koch Arena is a special finish, something its predecessors have lacked.
“Other teams already know what our plays are and how we are defensively,” WSU’s Kelsey Jacobs said of the difference in the second-half of the schedule. “Our coaches like to say they know what we eat for breakfast. They know everything.”
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After losing five of nine games in the second half of 2012, WSU was better last season, posting a 6-3 record, but its quality from its undefeated start was diminished.
No one in the program is expecting an undefeated season in the Valley, but coach Jody Adams is striving to keep the Shockers a polished product.
“We want them to pay attention to what’s not going right and be able to fix it,” Adams said. “When things aren’t going right, great teams are able to fix it. They’re mature. They’re able to see, ‘We’ve got to do this better,’ and there’s a sense of urgency there.”
Only one of WSU’s first nine games in the Valley was decided by fewer than 13 points. The majority of the other eight games were over by halftime.
With so many minutes deprived of the intensity Adams and the coaching staff craves, maintaining that level of crisp play that earned WSU those leads was a concern. But the coaches make sure the players are aware of what’s coming.
Chances are WSU will not have the luxury of eight double-digits victories in the second half of the conference season.
“Making sure we improve isn’t that hard to think about because the coaches always remind us about it,” WSU junior Alex Harden said. “It’s more about remembering to focus and tightening up the details.”
“We can’t feel like we’re entitled because we’re on this big winning streak,” Jacobs added. “This is when we really need to lock down and see if we can perfect it even more.”
Perhaps it will to play the one Valley opponent that kept the score close with WSU: Bradley, which WSU had to stave off late in 74-72 win on Jan. 12.
Defending last season’s conference title appears likely with a two-game lead and considering WSU went 9-0 with an average margin of victory of nearly 21 points.
But WSU is in search of something more, and it begins Friday.
“We’re looking to continue to perfect our game and perfect our game plan,” Adams said. “We can’t just settle for a win and laugh off mistakes. You have to take mistakes seriously, and you have to keep working hard. This is when the grind starts.”