GEORGETOWN, Texas – Through much of the non-conference schedule, the Southwestern University Pirates women's basketball players struggled to find their place on the court.
The Pirates' offense, predicated on puncturing defenses through the post and high-low actions, stalled. Southwestern University struggled to space the floor via outside shooting and players' placement in relationship to each other on the court.
Head coach Greta Grothe and assistant coach Georgina German spent the past week working on the choreography of the offense. The result was quite a show with the Pirates defeating the Johnson & Wales University (JWU) Wildcats 88-45 at home in their Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) opener.
Subtle tweaks, from the timing of a cut or a flash to the elbow from the weak side, unlocked new real estate for the Pirates. The scripted destinations for each player remained the same but the timing of it all flowed so much better as to render it a completely different offense.
"This game was a lot about confidence, taking care of the ball and making layups," Grothe said. "We worked on a lot of 2-3 offense and I really thought it paid off today."
The offense starts with the interior presence of Cecily Woolfolk and Tori Carraway, who combined for 19 points on 9-for-10 shooting and eight rebounds. Woolfolk's 10 points and Carraway's nine don't light up the box score but their work in the trenches was definitely noticed by the smaller Wildcats, who loaded their 2-3 zone to the strong side to prevent entry passes.
With larger wings in Zhazze Brown and Noel Pratts, the Pirates also have an advantage in the ability to see over the top of the defense for long skip passes, moving the defense from side to side, revealing cracks in each shift.
Pratts was the primary beneficiary, scoring 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting, attacking weakside defensive rotations in the half court and extending her defensive pressure for easy baskets in transition.
The sophomore forward set the tone with three of her five steals in the first quarter, opening the game with 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting to help lead the Pirates to a 29-8 lead after the first quarter.
First year point guard Courtney Maass looked much more comfortable in the offense, scoring 10 points on 3-for-3 shooting and dishing out a team-high four assists.
The Pirates' structured offense with two players near the paint at all times can be difficult to grasp for young point guards. Every offense needs a pinch of creativity to keep the defense off balance though and Maas found moments to attack off the dribble from different angles, scoring seven points in the second quarter to help carry Southwestern to a 50-17 lead at halftime.
She also helped set the Pirates' tempo with six defensive rebounds, grabbing the ball and going before the defense could set itself; opening up quick-hitters and also giving Southwestern time to run through multiple reads, leading to a season-high 57.1 percent shooting for the game.
Southwestern outrebounded JWU 13-3 in the third quarter, holding the Wildcats to 4-for-14 shooting to outscore them 26-11 in the third quarter.
With a second conference game tomorrow, the Pirates had the luxury of turning to the bench to give other players meaningful playing time, comfortably winning their conference opener.
The Pirates outscored the Wildcats 23-2 in points off turnovers, 17-3 in second-chance points, and 31-0 in points off the bench. Southwestern University will play Colorado College tomorrow at 1:00 p.m.