'Big Three' leads Shaw into final
Bears' coach relies on trio of post players to clean the glass
SAN ANTONIO -- Jacques Curtis wearied of the sameness in college basketball. He was going to do something about it to not only shake things up, but give his Shaw team a better chance to win.
It was last season and he knew he had a star in 6-foot-1 forward Demaria Liles, but his team was struggling. Why, Curtis reasoned, was because his team was using the style of basketball everyone else was playing. Shaw would play with three guards and two big people in the front court, their opponents would do likewise. With the strength of the offense being with the three guards, the team with the better trio, Curtis said, wins. That wasn’t a good thing for Shaw.
“We didn’t think we could put three guards out there better than theirs,” Curtis said. “But if we could put three bigs out there, we’re better than anybody. That’s when we created our triple post offense.”
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It helped Shaw make it to the Elite Eight last season and it has been the primary reason Shaw (28-6) is in Friday night’s championship game against Ashland (33-1).
Shaw advanced to the title game with a textbook night from its "Big Three" – Kyria Buford, Aslea Williams and Chrystal Harris, all 6-1. Each had a double-double and dominated Rollins in an 87-71 win.
Shaw had 48 points in the paint, 37 off of second chances and outrebounded Rollins 61-38.
“[Rollins] played 13 people,” Curtis said. “We didn’t know if we could wear them down, but we had to still go without style. The way we look at it, if you start three guards, then one of your guards will have to guard one of our bigs. And now we’re bringing that guard in the paint. I think my big can outrebound that guard in the paint.
“Our philosophy is we’re going inside. We don’t care if we miss the shot, because we’re going to rebound the ball. Even somebody like Aslea, who doesn’t have a whole lot of confidence in her perimeter shot, it takes the pressure off her. I tell her I don’t care if she misses. I’ve got two bigs down there to rebound. Just get the ball up on the glass and we’ll go get it.”
Curtis has one demand of his "Big Three." They must do everything they can to get 15 rebounds each game. Each one of them. It’s something they grouse about, but boy do they come close. Against Rollins, his inside-outside big Buford, had 10 rebounds to go along with her 22 points. His bruisers inside bigs, Williams and Harris, each had 14 rebounds and 12 and 24 points respectively.
“They’re like, ‘All of us can’t get 15 rebounds,’ ” Curtis said. “I tell them you need to get yours. You can’t be worried about anybody else. That if you want to make me happy, get yours.”
“Sometimes he says [get] 20,” Williams said. “He expects a lot out of us. We take pride in what we do. That’s where most of Shaw’s game is, in the post. We have to show up every game for us to win. We have good guards, also so when one of us doesn’t show up, the other one does which is always good.”
They know they will have their toughest assignment yet in Ashland’s Kari Daugherty. She has been the most dominant player inside in the tournament aside from Shaw’s trio. A former member of the Atlantic-10 All-Rookie Team when she was at Dayton, Daugherty is putting up Shaw-like numbers ranking in the top 10 nationally in scoring and rebounding. If they are going to get their 15 boards they will have a formidable opponent in the way.
“I know she’s the player of the year [in her conference and MVP of the Midwest Regional Tournament], but we just go out and play,” Williams said. “We’re going to try to get this national championship and that’s really what’s important to me.
“We just want to get further than we did last year. This year is more important because I’m a senior. Last year I felt like I had another chance to come back this year and do it. But this year, this is for me. I want to go home with the trophy. To do that we have to rebound.”
The three concentrate so intently on that because there is offense coming from their guards, a group that has subordinated their games all season to make the feed-the-post scheme a success.
“We try to put the team on our backs,” Buford said. “We score a majority of the points in the post with me, Aslea and Chrystal. Our guards contribute a lot and it works well for us.
We are proud of what we do and we know our guards can take over a game, too.”
“We feel like we’re the three-headed monster and feel like nobody can stop us,” Harris said. “So when we short ourselves, we’re shorting our team, and that’s one thing we can’t do. We have a great offensive team, but defense wins championships. That’s what’s got is here this far. Tomorrow night you’re going to see us play way better than you guys have seen us play up until now. We haven’t played real good defense or real good offense yet.”