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Balance has been both a struggle and a strength for the Hillsdale College women’s bas­ketball team which boasts a deep bench filled with young players. After losses to Northern Michigan Uni­versity and Michigan Tech last week, the Chargers will work to balance playing time and shooting strategy to improve on their 8 – 8 overall record.
Throughout January, the Chargers have posted a string of con­vincing wins and close losses, bat­tling through tough com­pe­tition with their fast-paced, aggressive game strategy. Fre­quent sub­sti­tu­tions have allowed the Chargers to beat their oppo­nents down the floor, racking up impressive numbers on offense.
But the Chargers struggled with shooting this week, scoring on just 34 percent of their field goal attempts in an 83 – 53 loss to Michigan Tech last Thursday. When the Chargers chal­lenged another Michigan team in the Upper Peninsula on Sat­urday, they put up similar sta­tistics, falling short 64 – 53 against Northern Michigan Uni­versity.
“We’ve shown quite a bit of improvement since we’ve come back at times, and in the last week we’ve struggled quite a bit. Part of that is that we’ve improved, but our oppo­nents are tough,” head coach Todd Mitmesser said. “Michigan Tech is a very good team. They’re a perennial pow­er­house in the league, and they’re good again this year.”
Junior Morgan Blair, who led her team in scoring with nine points against Northern Michigan, said the team’s fast-paced game strategy is both a strength and a weakness when facing other ath­letic, quick-scoring teams.
“Playing fast is def­i­nitely effective, and I think we’re getting a lot better at it,” Blair said. “However, we’ve switched to not playing as many people now. We’re not nec­es­sarily subbing five in, five out every two minutes.”
Mitmesser said many teams pare down their lineups throughout the season as indi­vidual players dis­tin­guish them­selves. Yet the Chargers still con­sis­tently play 10 players for more than 15 minutes, making use of a deep bench and the growing expe­rience of a young, skilled team.
Blair said one of the Chargers’ strengths is their wide­spread scoring ability.
“We are very fast and ath­letic, and we have a lot of players who are good one-on-one,” Blair said.
But according to senior Alex Moynes, Hillsdale’s recent scoring struggles mean that every player needs to work together and take smart shots, not just fast ones.
“We have a ten­dency to overlook the subtle things that help us play as a team. We were playing too much one-on-one,” Moynes said. “Indi­vid­ually, our team has good shooters, but I think we need to work on shot selection. Instead of focusing on how many pos­ses­sions we run, we need to focus on how many points we get in those pos­ses­sions.”
The Chargers have struggled to score with what have usually been go-to outside shots. Though they average 18 points per game on three-point shots, the team was 0‑for-13 from outside the arc in the second half against Northern Michigan.
Moynes said the Chargers’ focus on cre­ating quick shots is effective, but some­times that means they don’t get the chance to create a good shot on offense.
“So it’s one of our biggest strengths, but also one of our biggest weak­nesses as well,” Blair agreed.
Mitmesser said the Chargers will focus on shooting in practice this week in order to improve shooting sta­tistics.
Blair also said the team will run more full-court drills to build up endurance as they sub­stitute less fre­quently.
Though the Chargers have switched up their approach to sub­sti­tution and shooting, Mitmesser said the team’s goals remain the same.
“I don’t think much has changed in terms of strategy,” Mitmesser said. “We have a lot of depth, and the younger players are con­tinuing to gain expe­rience. A lot of players can make tremendous strides over this next month, both on offense and defense. It’s their age. They haven’t played a lot, but they’re going to get it.”
The Chargers will host Ferris State at 6 p.m. tonight in Dawn Tib­betts Potter Arena.
Hillsdale will travel to Grand Valley State Uni­versity for a 1 p.m. game on Sat­urday, and return home to play Saginaw Valley at 6 p.m. on Monday.