HOUGHTON - The Findlay women's basketball team will press for an entire 40 minutes and switches in the halfcourt between a 1-3-1 zone, 2-3 zone and (pseudo) matchup zone almost on a whim. The Oilers have started the season 4-0 (2-0 GLIAC), and are outscoring their opponents by an average of 24.7 points per game.
Michigan Tech women's basketball coach Kim Cameron has one response:
Thank goodness for Sam Hoyt.
The senior point guard - already the Huskies' most important player in normal circumstances - will take on an even greater role today with the Oilers at the Student Development Complex as Hoyt will be responsible for breaking the press, instantly diagnosing the Findlay defense and organizing the Huskies offense. Plus, the Huskies will still require Hoyt's team-leading 15.2 points per game.
"She is going to be our lifeline," Cameron said. "(Findlay) is averaging 17 steals per game, which is No. 1 in the league and they make a lot of good teams look bad in a lot of instances. We are going to need (Sam's) ball-handling, her passing and her leadership as much as ever."
This will be the first time this season Tech has seen a primary zone team, much less the collegiately uncommon 1-3-1.
Besides protecting the ball - an issue at times this season with Tech giving it away 14 times per game - a point of contention for the Huskies could be settling for too many one-pass threes early in the shot clock. So Cameron spent the three days of practice leading up to the contest preaching an attack mentality.
"You have to be aggressive," Cameron said. "Those are zones that you can beat if you play with confidence. We are going to look to get layups. We need to take care of the ball in the halfcourt and we want to make them play defense in the halfcourt. If we do those things we can be successful."
With such a high pace of play, the Oilers have given 12 different women more than 10 minutes per game, with only guard Kayla Brown averaging more than 20.
Conversely, the Tech reserves jump higher in importance as they will be required to play and play well with a deep Findlay squad.
While freshman MacKenzie Perttu and guards Kelcey Traynoff and Michelle Gaedke have all shined at different points early in the season, it is freshman forward/center Kylie Moxley who catches the eye the most. Moxley ranks fourth on the team in scoring at 8.2 points per game - in just 13.6 minutes per contest - and is the No. 1 rebounder for the Huskies with just over five per game.
She jumped another level in her first GLIAC games last weekend, pulling down six offensive rebounds against Malone and then dropping 11 points on just five shots in a victory over Walsh.
"Every game, she is getting a ton better," Cameron said. "She is bringing something new to us every game. I mean, she brings us six offensive rebounds in a game where our post players were struggling and I challenged them at halftime about who wanted to post. She comes in and she runs the floor hard, she posts hard and she rebounds hard."
According to Moxley - and acknowledging multiple times that she still has a long way to go - the college game started slowing down for her after the Concordia-St. Paul victory and she felt she didn't truly grasp the offense and defense until this weekend.
So right now she is embracing her role as a potential impact sub.
"I enjoy coming in and getting some big boards," Moxley said. "Knowing that I am going to come in an be a spark for the team and hopefully build on more and more on what (the starters) have already started."
Defensively, Tech has improved after a weak start, holding teams to 31 percent shooting over the last three games.
Brown, a 5-10 senior guard, will test if the improvement is real or merely a positive blip.
The second-leading scorer in the GLIAC at 24 points per game, Brown has attempted six threes per game this season (connecting on 50 percent of them) and is shooting 64 percent overall.
The Findlay halfcourt offense revolves around her, as Brown revolves around a series of picks trying to spring her free for a shot.
"They run her off of what seems like 15 screens in one 30-second possession," Cameron said. "You are getting over, you are getting through and when you get off a single one you have a double one coming. Then there is a staggered one and she is open and she knocks a three down. It is just devastating.
"She is scoring 25 points per game, and really is their entire offense in the halfcourt."
In the past, graduated defensive ace Lindsey Lindstrom would have drawn Brown's assignment and Cameron could focus on other things.
Now, Tech will try up to four or five different defenders on Brown with the hot hand earning the matchup.
"It is going to be whoever can do it because it is not an easy job," Cameron said.