Rule changes bringing more offense
Notes: UConn faces Duke on Tuesday; Kentucky back in action
With an increased effort this season on enforcing the current rules as written to allow more freedom of movement and promote less physicality, statistics in the women’s game are registering some significant early-season results as teams approach the end of non-conference play.
“The spacing seen in our game is exactly what we hoped would be the result of enforcing the rules as they are written,” Debbie Williamson, NCAA women’s basketball consultant as secretary-rules editor and national coordinator said. “Players being able to move freely offensively is critical to the attractiveness of our game. The response has been overwhelmingly positive that the game we have seen over the past month is the game people want to watch.”
|No. 5 Kentucky at DePaul|
No. 21 Iowa at No. 17 Iowa State
|Creighton at No. 19 Nebraska|
No. 4 Notre Dame at Michigan
No. 23 Gonzaga at No. 6 Stanford
|No. 24 Texas A&M at No. 12 Penn St.|
No. 18 Purdue at Kansas
|No. 1 Connecticut at No. 2 Duke||7 p.m.|
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Through games of Dec. 8, scoring is up 5.68 points per game in Division I, 5.20 in Division II and 5.31 in Division III. The scoring increase is attributable to better shooting from the field, with all three divisions showing an increase of between 1.3 to 1.4 percent.
Teams have needed to adjust to more whistles for illegal contact, with fouls per game up in all three divisions as well. In Division I, there has been an average increase of 2.94 fouls per team, per game. This has led to an increase in free throws attempted (3.30 per team, per game) and made (2.36).
“While forty percent of the scoring increase can be attributed to free throws at this point, the rise in shooting percentages speaks directly to the fact that the ball is going in more often,” Williamson said. “Players moving freely and the ball going in is where we wanted to be at this point. We are on track and must stay the course.”
Three teams are currently on a record-setting pace for points per game averages. Coming off scoring 130 points in a losing cause against Kentucky last Friday, Baylor leads the country, averaging 102.8 points per game. The Lady Bears are led by country’s top scorer in guard Odyssey Sims (30.0 ppg) and have topped the century mark four times this season. Oregon is second at 99.3 points per game, while Kentucky checks in at 98.8. The all-time record was set in 1991 by Providence, which averaged 96.7 points.
Connecticut (52.0 percent), Albany (N.Y.) (51.96 percent), Duke (51.54 percent), Notre Dame (50.36 percent) and South Carolina (50.30 percent) are currently on top of the field goal percentage charts for Division I. Other than shooting it well, the five are also currently undefeated with a combined record of 44-0, with Connecticut, Duke, Notre Dame and South Carolina making up 40 percent of the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
The most improved shooting team in the country thus far is South Carolina, with a field goal percentage increase of 11.49 percent compared to last year. The Gamecocks adjusted field-goal percentage rate (which includes all baskets) is also tops in the nation at 12.85 percent. Other teams also showing marked increases in shooting this season compared to last are Weber State (+10.52 percent), Pepperdine (+10.07 percent), St. Mary’s (Calif) (+9.71 percent) and Duquesne (8.41 percent).
Even with the newly instituted 10-second backcourt rule, turnovers are down in the early going. For Division I, teams are averaging 1.12 fewer turnovers a game, 1.02 fewer in Division II and 0.89 fewer in Division III.
Around the division
• Many are counting the days until No. 1 Connecticut travels to Durham, N.C., to take on No. 2 Duke on Tuesday in the Jimmy V Classic. UConn (10-0) has won 16 of the past 23 games it has played against opponents ranked in the Associated Press top five, with average margin of victory of 13.5 points. The Huskies went undefeated in November for the 17th time in the past 18 seasons. Duke, also 10-0, is led by coach Joanne P. McCallie who became the 30th active Division I coach to reach the 500-win mark when the Blue Devils defeated Oklahoma 94-85 on Dec. 8. The win was her 175th in seven seasons at Duke, with McCallie also serving as head coach at Michigan State and Maine. Duke will be looking for redemption against Connecticut after absorbing a 79-49 defeat at the hands of the Huskies last season.
|San Diego||9-0||East Carolina||7-0|
|The 4-1-1: The ranks of the unbeaten fell to 15 during the weekend, with Arkansas at 11-0 now topping the list. The SEC continues to have five undefeated teams: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.|
Coming off of an epic 133-130 four overtime win against Baylor on Dec. 6, Kentucky (9-0) will return to action on Thursday with a road game at DePaul. For the first time in school history, Kentucky has defeated two top-10 teams in the last week, with wins against Louisville and Baylor. In the win against Baylor, junior guard Jennifer O’Neill came of the bench to set a school record with 43 points. The 263 combined points set an NCAA record. The Wildcats also established new school records for points (133), free throws made (49) and free throws attempted (66). On a down note, Kentucky will be without senior forward DeNesha Stallworth who will miss three-to-four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on her left knee on Dec. 11. Stallworth is second on the team in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (7.0).
• Although undefeated, Arkansas (11-0) and Indiana (10-0) have flown under the radar so far this season. Arkansas defeated Kansas in the team’s only true road game of the non-conference schedule on Dec. 4. Freshman Jessica Jackson leads the Razorbacks with an average of 14.6 points per game. Arkansas’ 11-win streak is four shy of the school record, also set under current head coach Tom Collen. Indiana also hasn’t strayed far from home this season, going 7-0 at Assembly Hall. Next major test will come on Dec. 29 with a road game at Xavier before the start of Big Ten Conference play.
• The West Coast Conference race this season is shaping up as one to watch. Brigham Young and San Diego are 9-0 in non-conference play, while Gonzaga is 8-1. The Bulldogs just completed a two-game road sweep of games against Big Ten Conference opponents in defeating Ohio State, 59-58 and Wisconsin, 70-55. Next up for Gonzaga is a road contest at Stanford this Saturday. Saint Mary’s (CA) has also won seven of its first eight games.
The road to Nashville
Jenny Boucek is part of the rich women’s basketball history of Nashville, Tenn., site of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four. Born in Nashville, Boucek enjoyed a storied collegiate and professional basketball career.
A four-year starting player for Virginia from 1992–96, Boucek helped lead the Cavaliers to four regular season ACC championships and three regional appearances. She was a two-time GTE Academic All-American team member and two-time ACC selection. Boucek twice earned team Defensive Player of the Year honors and finished her career at Virginia as a member of the 1,000-point club. She also competed in the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1993. Boucek graduated with honors in 1997 with a degree in sports medicine and sports management.
She played professional basketball for two years. In the WNBA’s inaugural season in 1997, Boucek was a member of the Cleveland Rockers. She played in Iceland in 1998 and was voted the country's best player after averaging 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists. She returned to the Rockers in time for the 1998 season but retired from playing due to a career-ending back injury.
From 1999 to 2005, she served as an assistant coach for various teams in the WNBA. She was head coach for the Sacramento Monarchs from 2006 to '09.