For games when the offense isn’t clicking, coaches pray for help from the defense.
University of Akron coach Jodi Kest can be grateful for the Zips’ defensive hustle during Saturday’s 64-52 Mid-American Conference win over Ball State because the Zips were creating an unpleasant chorus with shots bouncing off the rim.
Forward Rachel Tecca (Archbishop Hoban) was able to get in tune with 22 points to lead all scorers. Sina King’s 14 points and nine rebounds, along with nine assists from point guard Kacie Cassell, helped lift the Zips (17-7, 8-3 MAC) to their fifth consecutive win and kept them in a first-place tie in the East Division.
Nathalie Fontaine had a double-double for the Cardinals (11-13, 8-3) with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Brandy Woody added 12 points.
Defense offered another refrain. The Zips held the Cardinals to less than 30 percent shooting for the game and took advantage of Ball State’s 13 turnovers to score 16 points.
“Defensively, we haven’t been very solid this year,” Kest said. “For us to play a Ball State team that was really hot and defend as well as we did, I was really proud.”
UA’s defense was enough to hold serve until the second half when the Zips’ offense awakened from its zombie-like trance to put together a run of substance to give them some breathing room.
The two halves proved to be a study in contrasts for UA.
In the first half, the Zips shot 23 percent from the floor, including 1-of-15 on 3-pointers.
The second half brought a different result. The shots that had been short suddenly began to find the bottom of the net. The Zips made 6-of-9 3-pointers to finally develop some semblance of rhythm on offense.
“It says how much confidence these kids have,” Kest said. “Shooting is more mental than it is physical and we told them in the locker room they were much better shooters than they showed in the first half.”
What the Zips showed early was an 0-for-8 shooting performance in the first six minutes. Fortunately it was something their defense helped them to overcome.
Kest said it’s something the Zips can build upon when they travel to Bowling Green on Wednesday. The Falcons trail the Zips by a game in the East Division.
“The [players] have a little bit more confidence in our defensive effort,” she said.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.