Under Coach Zenarae Antoine, the Texas State women’s basketball team has improved in the win-loss department in the last two seasons.
Part of that marked improvement is because of Antoine’s focus on defense. Last season, Texas State allowed 64.6 points per game and 39.4 percent shooting, both marks placing the team in the top half of the Sun Belt Conference.
Defense happens to be even more of a point of emphasis for Antoine this year.
“One of the things that we’ve been doing we’ve been focusing on quite a bit, more so than we have in the past and I think the players will be able to tell you this is defense,” Antoine said.
To wit: Antoine named Chandra Dorsey as an associate head coach because of her defensive prowess. Dorsey, who spent last season at Wichita State, was apart of a program that finished fourth in Division I in scoring defense.
Antoine said this year’s defense is not as traditional compared to past seasons. Honing the scheme, Antoine said, will require a different form.
Texas State is incorporating six new players – four freshmen and two transfers – into the rotation. Finding their footing in a new defensive scheme hasn’t been a problem.
“I think they’ve bought in to defense,” Antoine said. “They’ve understood from the beginning, the second season was over last year that defense is truly what its going to come down to.”
Unlike last year, with 6-foot-2 Kileah Mays solidifying the frontline, Texas State’s defensive success will be a product of its versatility rather height. Antoine said this year’s unit was the most versatile team she’s ever had.
The downside occurs in the rebounding department. Even last year, with more height, Texas State allowed 41.9 rebounds per game. Only Georgia Southern and Troy gave up more rebounds in the conference.
“You’re gonna ask yourself ‘well where is the rebounding going to come from?’” Antoine said. “We’re asking ourself that question right now. That’d be the one area where we need some work.”
The Bobcats are hoping their team speed on offense and defense will be enough to compensate on the defensive front.
“On the surface right now you take a look at us, yes we’re smaller but that doesn’t mean that our hearts aren’t in it,” Antoine said. “It doesn’t mean that our kids aren’t going to work harder.”
The challenge in creating a productive defense is in the process. Defense requires more physical energy and repetition to understand the nuances.
“I think the challenge is that they always have an understanding if I make the shot, everything in the world is okay,” Antoine said. “I think the challenge you find is understanding that defense takes a lot more leg work than it does necessarily brain work but it takes a lot of leg work and that’s your ability to be able to move quickly and to understand gaps and seams.”
Big shoes to fill: The injury bug has already bitten the Bobcats before the season.
Erin Peoples, last year’s leading scorer, will miss the entire season with an ACL injury.
“Losing Erin hurt but the mark of a good team is other people step up,” said Kaitlin Walla, redshirt sophomore guard. “I think everyone has to find their niche. We’ll fill that hole of Erin in different ways. I don’t think any one person is going to fill that hole but, collective, we can.”
Non-conference slate: Antoine is testing her team prior to the conference season.
That’s by design, of course.
Texas State’s non-conference schedule includes matchups against Texas A&M, Iowa State, Duke and UTSA.
“We also have the toughest schedule to this point of my time here at Texas State,” Antoine said. “Regardless of what the outcome looks like I’m excited about it because our team is excited about it and they’re prepared.”