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SMC Basketball: Belles hope third time the charm with Adrian

Bill Brink | Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Saint Mary’s came close in the past two games, but wasn’t able to pull out a win. It’ll have one more shot tonight against Adrian College before returning to South Bend.

The Belles (1-6) have lost their last two games by only six points, but they’re only shooting 36 percent from the floor in that span.

“We’re not being patient on offense, and we’re not working for the best shot,” Saint Mary’s coach Jennifer Henley said.

Henley attributed some of the offensive struggles to opposing defenses focused more on stopping junior guard Alison Kessler – the Belles’ leading scorer, with 17.9 points per game.

“We’re playing Alison a lot more minutes, so it’s hard to get her a break,” Henley said. “Other teams are gunning after her as well, and she has to work harder on offense because she’s so successful.”

But opposing defenses are unable to stop Kessler once she gets to the free-throw line. Kessler shoots 82.4 percent from the line in an offense designed to create situations where she can draw fouls.

“You tell her, ‘Take it to the hole, make something happen,'” Henley said. “She has the ability to draw contact and is strong enough to take contact.”

The team, however, struggles in the rebounding and turnover department. Saint Mary’s has been out-rebounded in six of its seven games this season and turns the ball over 1.4 more times per game than its opponents.

A resolution on both issues may be imminent, however. Against Carthage, the Belles scored 18 points off turnovers while holding Carthage to 15. And freshmen Anna Kammrath has appeared as a bona fide glass player, averaging 11.3 rebounds per game in the past three games.

“Kammrath is stepping up, doing what we asked her to do,” Henley said.

The Bulldogs are currently 3-1 (1-0 in the MIAA). Although without individual stars, the team averages 72 points per game and holds its opponents to 59 points per game. Freshmen forward Kim Olech leads the Bulldogs with 11.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game, shooting 55 percent from the field. Junior guard Nichole Roose sinks a blistering 63 percent of her 3-point attempts.

“I’ve got to stress the importance of team defense, keeping people off outside the paint, and locating shooters in transition defense,” Henley said. “They’re young and scrappy, they’re playing a lot of different players and they have a lot of kids who can step up and knock it down. It comes back again to rebounding and our pressure defense forcing turnovers.”