ORU women's coach plans new defense
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Friday, October 26, 2012
10/26/12 at 6:09 AM
New Oral Roberts University women's basketball head coach Misti Cussen wants to put her stamp on the program. But she doesn't want to change so many things that it proves counterproductive.
The biggest change will be a new approach to defense.
Cussen praised her former coach and former boss Jerry Finkbeiner as a visionary. She said Finkbeiner once relied primarily on man-to-man defense and he would mix in zone as a change-up.
During Finkbeiner's twilight years at ORU, he switched gears and went all zone, all the time.
"Jerry was a great experimenter," Cussen said. "He really sold out to the idea that he didn't care if the opponent had 85 as long as we had 86. He really wanted to push and make that (fast) tempo happen."
The Golden Eagles averaged 22 victories per season doing things that way over the past three seasons.
But, said Cussen, "I don't think I can sleep at night giving up 85 points a game. So, for me, I need to pull it back into what I loved doing as a player and what I loved early on (as a coach)."
So, get ready for a return to man-to-man defense.
Asked how the transition was going, senior forward Savanna Buck said, "It's going. Old habits die hard for sure. We played that trapping zone defense for three years and we would run that no matter if it worked or if it didn't."
Trying to play man-to-man defense when you haven't done it in three years is a little frustrating, according to Buck.
"It's kind of like riding a bike," she said. "It's a little bit rusty and we definitely don't have it down to a science yet. But we are definitely getting there. It's making us definitely raise the intensity level for sure and definitely asking us to go to a whole different level of toughness."
That's the goal. Cussen suggested a reliance on zone defense caused the Golden Eagles to be "too finesse" in everything they did. She said players always played hard. But man-to-man defense will create more personal accountability.
"Man-to-man defense is the truest defense you can play," senior guard Kevi Luper said. "If you are guarding a girl and she gets a rebound, you are the one that didn't block out. If she is the one that scores, you are the one that didn't stop her. It tells all. I think that's a good pressure to have individually."
Luper said she loves the change.
"Obviously going from one extreme to the other, going from a mainly zone team to a mainly man team, that's a big deal," senior guard Jaci Bigham said. "And it caused a lot of problems at first. But I think both our coaching staff and our players have done a good job of adapting and really applying it to a 5-on-5 setting. It's a good move for us and it will pay off in the end."
Original Print Headline: New coach has new ideas for defense
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ORU women's basketball coach Misti Cussen said the team will go back to playing man-to-man defense. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World