The hallmark of the first five halves of the Linda Hargrove era was defense.
Wichita State’s women’s basketball team averaged fewer than 27 points allowed in those halves and was nearing a six-game winning streak that started before Hargrove began her interim tenure.
Then Missouri State scored 38 second-half points in Sunday’s 65-60 win over the Shockers at Koch Arena. Missouri State improved its shooting by 17 percentage points, made five three-pointers and often had free reign around the perimeter.
The Shockers (10-11, 5-5 Missouri Valley Conference) host Evansville on Friday night and Southern Illinois on Sunday afternoon.
“The first half I felt like our defense was extremely good,” Hargrove said. “We were able to get offense from our defense and held their three-point shooters down. The second half, they pretty much got too many open looks from three-point range and they knocked them down.”
WSU could afford to concentrate its defense in the first half because Liza Fruendt, Missouri State’s leading scorer, dominated the ball. She made 5 of 13 shots while the other MSU starters combined for seven attempts.
When MSU diversified in the second half, the Shockers failed to adjust. Fruendt didn’t score, but Alexa Willard, Aubrey Buckley and Audrey Holt combined to make 6 of 11 shots.
MSU’s other starter, Lexi Hughes, carried the Bears in the fourth quarter and finished with 22 points, making all five of her free throws and 3 of 5 three-pointers. She led the charge as MSU created a faster tempo in the second-half without Fruendt’s ball-stopping constraints.
“It was just lack of detail on our part,” WSU junior forward Rangie Bessard said. “We left wide-open shooters, so of course they’re going to knock those down, they specialize in that from their shooters.
“We have to do a better job communicating in transition defense, for sure. A lot of (their shots) came in transition. Our defense in the first half kept us in the game, so that should have been a spark that we maintained that effort on the defensive side.”
Because of foul trouble to WSU’s post players Bessard and Angiee Tompkins, Hargrove moved away from the platoon system the Shockers established under coach Jody Adams-Birch before she parted ways with WSU last month.
In Sunday’s second half, lineups and substitutions were decided based on need rather than the wholesale changes made in the first half. The relative unfamiliarity could have caused the communication issues Bessard described, as MSU’s transition offense also helped the Bears with interior scoring.
“In the fourth quarter we faced some adversity and it kind of held us back,” Bessard said. “With the foul trouble, we had to mix up different lineups. …Everybody just has to stay ready when their name is called and work around the adversity at times.”
Evansville at WSU women
- When: 7 p.m. Friday
- Where: Koch Arena
- Records: UE 8-14, 3-8 MVC; WSU 10-11, 5-5
- Broadcast: goshockers.com