Winthrop women's basketball coach Bud Childers has been searching for an answer to his team's offensive slowdown. The Lady Eagles have averaged just 44 points per game over their last five games.
Sometimes you can skim right past the obvious, looking for a complicated answer.
Childers watched tape of Saturday's Presbyterian game, which Winthrop won 47-35. It was an ugly win, but it gave the Lady Eagles a 1-0 record in the Big South and handed the coach an answer to his query.
He realized watching the game film how closely packed his team was on the offensive end of the floor. There was one play where Ashley Fann, the team's leading scorer, had the ball in the paint, but had difficulty maneuvering for a shot with two of her teammates clogging the lane to the hoop.
Never miss a local story.
Look for Winthrop to open up the floor a little more in tonight's 7 p.m. game against Johnson C. Smith. The team has worked hard on the half-court offense in practice, concentrating primarily on spacing.
Once Childers took note of the spacing problem, he looked back at previous games. Winthrop, he said, has been too tight since the Clemson game on Nov. 25. The Lady Eagles lost to the Tigers, 76-68, but the point production was their best of the year.
"Keep the floor spread. Don't compress everything inside," Childers barked at practice Monday.
In the Clemson game, Winthrop had a balanced scoring attack. Four players scored in double figures, the only time that has happened this year.
Point guard Yvonne van Daalen was as effective as she has ever been in that game. She scored a career-high 17 points. Ashley Haugtvedt also had 17, Fann scored 16 and Tiffany Rodd added 11.
"In our primary offense, we haven't been finding a flow. We are just missing a lot of shots, and I think that has affected our team chemistry a little," van Daalen said.
Winthrop played lock-down defense at Presbyterian. The Lady Eagles did everything they wanted to do: defend the ball, rebound, and provide more full-court pressure than they had previously shown. Conversely, nothing came easily on offense. Fann and Rodd combined to go 5-for-21 from the floor. The team needs those two, in particular, to begin scoring in bunches.
"They have to step up and start making shots. When they have good offensive nights, it takes pressure off everyone else," Childers said.
With the spacing issue addressed, maybe that can begin to happen. Fann spent some time shooting 3-pointers with coaches. The 6-foot power forward came to Winthrop with a nice shooting touch. She set the school record in her freshman year with eight 3-pointers in a single game.
Childers joked that Fann hasn't made eight 3-pointers since.
Monday's practice began with a long shooting drill. The team seemed to enjoy themselves as they moved from the wing to the top of the key to the opposite wing. Childers counted aloud each made basket.
In Johnson C. Smith, Winthrop gets an opponent that likes to attack the basket. The Lady Golden Bulls (7-4), a Division II program that plays in the CIAA, has four DI transfers on the roster, led by guard Wendy Stywalt.
Stywalt, a 5-8 junior, began her college career at Charlotte. Now at JCSU, she averages 16.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest. Childers described her as a great one-on-one player.
Stywalt scored 29 points in a game against Mars Hill this year. She leads the CIAA with 3.3 steals per game.
"We will have to focus on helping on their drives," Childers said. "They attack with midrange jumpers and drives."
Winthrop won 65-45 at Johnson C. Smith last year. Rodd enjoyed one of her best games, connecting on five 3-pointers.
The Lady Golden Bulls have two other players who score in double digits. Guard Janai Jackson throws in 10 points a game and forward Demetria Bell scores 10.8 and pulls down a team-leading 9.5 rebounds each time out.
Johnson C. Smith has won four of its last five games. The one loss, an 84-78 setback, came Dec. 13 at Big South member UNC Asheville. Bell scored 20 in that game.
The game kicks off a five-game homestand for Winthrop. The Lady Eagles, picked to finish second in the Big South preseason poll, entertain Liberty on Saturday at the Coliseum. Liberty was the preseason No.1 pick.
• Winthrop gameday • 3B