Remaining focused: Walters wants Mavs to stay strong on defense
Most basketball coaches don’t worry so much about the offense as they do the defense.
Mesa State College women’s basketball coach Roger Walters is a big believer in defense. In the Mavericks’ matchup zone, one thing is a must: Communication.
At times, it’s quiet — too quiet — when the Mavericks are on defense, and when that’s the case, teams have a tendency to score a little more and the Mavericks are more prone to be out of position.
Last weekend, though, the Mavericks were downright chatty, even the players who, by nature, aren’t all that talkative.
“We’re really asking them to be vocal,” Walters said. “To play matchup, you really have to talk to one another. The more we talk, the better we are.”
With the players constantly calling out screens, directing traffic and making sure they were in the right spots, Western State shot 23 percent from the field in the first half of the Mavs’ 78-68 RMAC victory last Saturday.
The awareness on defense carried over to the offense. Mesa shot 53 percent from the field, recognizing what defense the Mountaineers were playing and adjusting accordingly. They had 13 assists on 25 field goals made, and on the other 12, they were hitting layups off steals or clearing the lane for Katie Brady to drive for layups.
“Offensively, the more we share it the better we are,” Walters said. “The better we take care of it, obviously, the better we are. Those have been huge points of emphasis for us.
“I think we’re sitting third in the RMAC in points allowed (62 points per game). There’s room for improvement, but at the same time, we do a pretty good job. I think we make it tough for people to score on us, and that’s all you can ask.”
The Mavericks (10-5, 7-4 RMAC) will need to do this weekend at Brownson Arena, with Colorado School of Mines (7-9, 3-8) in town at 6 tonight and Colorado Christian (11-3, 10-1) at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The Orediggers were 4-1 heading into their RMAC opener against Colorado Christian in early December, but lost Angie Charchalis and Allie Grazulis to injuries. Charchalis, a 5-foot-5 junior guard from Moffat County High School, was scoring 14.3 points a game and Grazulis, a 5-11 sophomore forward, 8.5 a game. Mines lost that game 70-67 and has gone 3-7 since.
Brecca Gaffney, a 6-1 senior forward, is second in the RMAC in scoring at 17.5 points a game and Courtney Gallo, a 5-8 freshman guard, is adding 8.1.
Mesa’s Kelsey Sigl is fourth in scoring in the conference at 15.7 a game.
Tonight’s game will mark the return of Brittany (Rowley) Simpson to Grand Junction. The four-year starting guard for the Mavericks (2002-2006) has been an assistant coach at Mines the past three years.
Halfway through the conference season, Walters is happy with the progress the Mavericks have made individually and as a team, and unlike some coaches, makes sure they know where they are in the standings.
“I think it’s important,” he said. “They need to know where they’re at and how important each game is, so we let them know where we’re at. But I think they spend a lot of time on the RMAC website, so they know.”
Metro State leads the RMAC at 11-0, with Fort Lewis and Colorado Christian tied at 10-1. Then it’s Mesa and Nebraska-Kearney, with a logjam at 6-5 with Adams State, CSU-Pueblo and Regis. CU-Colorado Springs is another game back, one spot out of a playoff berth.
The Mavs have stumbled only once in the first half against teams below them in the standings, at CU-Colorado Springs, heading into tonight’s game against Mines.
Walters’ priority is to make sure the Mavs continue to beat the teams below them, which will keep them in the running to host a first-round playoff game. And he wants them to challenge the top teams in the conference.
“I think we’re eyeballing the teams in front of us, and the kids should be feeling that way, too,” Walters said. “But it all boils down to Mines on Friday night, and if we take care of business, it’s Christian on Saturday night. Then it’s Regis the next Friday. It’s such a grind. It’s one of those things, teams will separate themselves.”