WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Team looking to rebound against Toledo
Coach wants to use bigger lineup to counter Rockets
Prior to Saturday's game in Mount Pleasant, Mich., coach Kelly Packard gathered her group of players in the visitor's locker room and relayed a message to her team.
"If we don't win any road games and we hold serve at home, we're going to finish conference play at 8-8 and [that's] not going to allow [us] to be in the upper half of the West division," she said.
Initially, the message wasn't received as Packard saw her team drop its second consecutive Mid-American Conference road game of the season.
But the Cardinals (7-10, 2-2) will look to put a stop to their road woes when they travel to Toledo for a Western Division matchup with the Rockets at 7 p.m.
The Rockets (9-7, 2-2) present a difficult matchup for the Cardinals. Capable of scoring from anywhere on the floor, the Rockets are the best 3-point team in the MAC, shooting over 36 percent from long range.
Senior guard Courtney Ingersoll leads the MAC with a 3-point field goal percentage of over 46 percent, while sophomore guard Andola Dortch owns a team-best average of nearly 14 points per game and 64 assists.
Packard said it will be huge for the Cardinals to locate the Rockets' shooters at all times. She also emphasized the need to contain them as often as possible.
"Dortch is very gifted off the dribble," she said. "She has a lot of change of pace hesitation moves off the dribble trying to get around her defender so she can create [space] for herself or one of her teammates. [Ingersoll] shoots the ball really well."
The Rockets' offense consists of ball screens and flare screens, which will allow Packard to center her game plan around her post players.
"We're going to go bigger," Packard said. "Suzanne [Grossnickle] is going to start because she's played well in the last couple of games. Their starting center, Yolanda Richardson, is a true back-to-the-bucket player with size."
Another in-game battle the Cardinals will need to win will come at the free throw line. Packard said her team must be poised and disciplined in order to limit the Rockets' chances of recording easy points.
"Dortch has gotten to the line 90 times on the season," Packard said. "The next person on their team has only gotten there 30 [times]. It's going to be huge for us to not put them in the bonus early [and] try not to put Dortch at the line because she shoots 70 percent."
While identifying her teams' pitfalls from its previous outing against Central Michigan during practice and film study this week, Packard is looking for her team to flourish in a couple of crucial categories they've had little success in this season.
"We've really struggled in the rebounding category," she said. "Toledo is a team that out-rebounds their opponents by about four [per] game. We're going to have to battle with them on the boards."
The Cardinals could be facing the task of out-manning the Rockets on the glass without their leading rebounder, sophomore forward Katie Murphy, who sprained her ankle during practice this week and will be a game time decision.
Though the odds of Murphy playing are slim, Packard said she remains optimistic that her second-year player can get some playing time against the Rockets.
"I'm hopeful that given a 7 o'clock start time that she'll be OK to play limitedly," Packard said. "I don't think you'll see Katie on the floor for 20-plus minutes."
For the Cardinals, a win would be their first road triumph of conference play this season, while a loss would leave Packard with a disappointing record of 8-18 away from Worthen Arena during conference play since her arrival in 2008.
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