Bishops looking for offensive spark entering conference weekend


Sports Writer

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Through four games, the problem has been as easy to pinpoint as it’s been hard to change.

More so than the 1-3 record to begin the season, which includes a loss to NCAA Division I Winthrop, the troubling trend for N.C. Wesleyan’s women’s basketball has been the offense.

As in, they’re having trouble putting the ball in the basket.

Every season is different, with its own sets of x-factors to ignite winning and losing stretches, said Bishops coach Artina Trader, but in some cases, there’s got to be a return to the basics before the identity searching can begin.

“I’ve been part of winning seasons as a player and as an assistant coach, I’ve had decent teams as a head coach, but the x-factor is never the same thing,” Trader said. “It might just have to be offensively for this year, because we haven’t won shooting 20-something percent from the floor, so obviously for us we need to score.”

In all five games, including an exhibition against High Point, the Bishops have scored somewhere between 47 and 57 points, but more pressing have been the percentages: 29.1 percent overall, 16.7 percent from three and 58 percent from the free-throw line.

Trader would like to see tangible improvement on those numbers sooner than later. This weekend, to be exact, would be a good time to start, as the Bishops open up a three game conference stretch at home starting on Saturday.

They’ll host Ferrum on Saturday and Mary Baldwin on Sunday, with a matchup against Averett next Friday finishing off the stretch.

“It’s one game at a time,” Trader said. “Obviously some opponents are different than others with conference coming up, but I’m not necessarily focused on the opponent, I just want us to play better offensively.”

The brightest part of this season, said the coach, has been the defense. With a smaller lineup, the Bishops have been effective in playing more uptempo defense and causing turnovers.

On the road against Guilford on Nov. 21, both the good and the bad were on display. NCWC kept the scoring low and hung around to within three points with four minutes left, but the lead for the opponent slowly grew and the offense, lacking the firepower to keep up, went silent in what turned into a 12 point loss, 63-51.

“We were getting the turnovers we wanted, we just weren’t scoring,” Trader said. “Hopefully having the freshman in that situation, the next time we’re in a tight game with less than five minutes left, we’ll handle it different and I’ll coach it differently.”

As for the roster breakdown, it’s a “weird mix,” said Trader; top-heavy but only in terms of the six juniors. The lone senior, part of an initial recruiting class that has since shrunk to just her, is KeChae Parker, who so far leads the team in rebounding (7.8) and is tied for the lead in points (10.3) with freshman Kayla Johnson.

There are good parts and bad parts to that fact, Parker said.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever been in this situation. It takes a lot of leadership,” she said. “Pros -- I’m the only one, everyone looks to you to keep a positive mindset, but if I make a mistake, everything follows that way.”

With every player on the roster below 6-feet, the guard play this weekend and for the rest of the season will be a crucial part of the Trader’s system. The hope going forward is to match the effort and tempo on defense with the same identity on offense.

So far, the results obviously have been a mix, but the coach feels confident in particular in two juniors in her backcourt -- Daijah Davis and Cheria Turrentine -- to help pick up the offense and resurrect the Bishops’ low shooting percentage.

“We just need to calm down, settle in down the stretch of these games,” Davis said. “Play our game, play our pace. We can shoot, we just haven’t had the right shots.”