NCC 78- WHEATON 118
Hard to believe we were only down 4 at the half, 50-46. But our defense did a great imitation of a sieve after intermission, forcing only 9 turnovers while allowing Wheaton to shoot 65% from the floor (26-40 in the final 20 minutes). Yes, we want to force the tempo, and yes teams will shoot a high percentage at a result of our extended defensive perimeter. But, no, 65% is not what we had in mind, given our futility on the offensive end (7-41 from the arc). Instead of trading an opponent's two-point basket for a three on our end, we were trading twos for zero.
Men often shoot in the 60 percent range against System teams, but our women at ONU typically limited opponents to 40-45%, while anyone shooting over 50% was a rarity. So in my mind, 40-50% is a realistic standard. With that said, what's our problem defensively this year at NCC? If my little speech yesterday about the value of "antifragility" meant anything, it was that painful losses like this are opportunities to learn something. So what did I learn?
Well, first of all, I'm learning that size matters when it comes to the back of the press. Our safeties are 5-7, 5-9, and 5-8, and we haven't factored that reality into our defensive scheme as much as we should have. At ONU last year they were 6-1, 6-0, and 6-2, allowing us to play it safe, leaving our safeties back where they could challenge shooters and wrap up the rebound. But with our smaller safeties at NCC, when we "play it safe," we are sitting ducks in a 2 on 1 situation.
Solution? Our safeties must become much more aggressive in going for steals. What does it really matter if we gamble and then give up a layup... we are giving up layups anyway, despite being parked in the lane! Our safeties and interceptors have become too rigid in their roles, and as a result aren't working together to move up and back to help each other. They need go gamble more and learn to trust each other.
Second point: conversion matters... a lot. When our front line gets beat, all too often they are not sprinting to recover, but instead are leaving our safeties to their own devices. The key to playing this sort of high-risk defense is forcing the offense to react to you, not you reacting to them! In System basketball, the initiator wins the battle. If our opponent has time to catch and see the floor because we haven't sprinted back into recovery positions, then our defense becomes vulnerable to good passing teams like Wheaton or Illinois Wesleyan.
What it boils down to is the old System maxim: It's okay to give up a layup, just so long as your defense first creates at least one good opportunity for a steal. One good opportunity. Sure, it's tough to get hammered, but I've always felt that it's okay to lose to a good team as long as you go down swinging. But if none of our defenders will gamble and avail themselves of that one good opportunity, we aren't exactly "going down swinging"... we aren't even throwing a punch.