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SMC Basketball: Belles look for payback against rival Albion

Peter Steiner | Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A clear, unwavering focus is the Belles’ top priority at this point in the season.

The Belles (9-11, 5-6 MIAA) must improve their defensive consistency, focus on beating Albion tonight and hold on to the last MIAA conference playoff spot, Belles coach Jenn Henley said.

After a close 77-73 loss to Hope on Saturday, the Belles will travel to play Albion (13-6, 8-3) this evening. Even though five regular season games remain for Saint Mary’s, Henley said the Belles are not looking too far ahead.

“Our focus is purely Albion right now,” Henley said. “All we have is one game at a time. We can’t look past anybody on our schedule.”

The Belles will enter the game third in the MIAA in scoring offense, but also allow 64.1 points per game, second worst in the conference. Henley said defense and rebounding is vitally important to the Belles’ success against Albion.

“I think we need to continue what we’ve been doing defensively,” Henley said. “On Saturday, we played one of our better defensive games that we’ve had all season. We’ve got to control the boards, too. We can’t give Albion second shots and that’s something we are going to focus on [on Wednesday].”

Meanwhile, Albion enters the game in third place in the MIAA. The Britons are led by senior center Patty Rewa, who ranks second in the MIAA in scoring and first in rebounding, averaging 13.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.

Henley said the Belles must control the tempo of the game and prevent Albion from going on long runs.

“We also definitely want to get out and push and try to set the tone early as we do every game we play,” Henley said. “We have to be able to work the clock a little bit better at times when we have the lead to eliminate the runs by our opponents.

“We need to go deeper in the shot clock, make them play defense a little bit longer. We want to try to wear them out defensively instead of being one-and-done and going back on the other end.”

Having lost to Albion 72-52 in their first matchup, Henley said her players recognize the importance of this game. Only the top four teams will make the postseason.

“I think [the players] are very focused,” Henley said. “We are at the point in our season where every game is big for us. Those who are behind us in the league are starting to creep up and we have a one game cushion in fourth place. Every single night we have to go out there and try to maintain that fourth place.”

Saint Mary’s will travel to Albion, Mich., to take on the Britons in a 6 p.m. matchup tonight.

Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu