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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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New offense brings balanced approach

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Tara Steinbauer (4) and Rae Lin D\’Alie (11) have helped UW balance its new offense.[/media-credit]

In basketball, balanced scoring has become somewhat of a lost art.

Today’s NBA teams, for the most part, are centered on the individual production of their stars. If LeBron James or Kobe Bryant has a poor offensive performance, the Cavs and Lakers can expect to have trouble winning.

Even in college basketball, where offenses are much more team-oriented through the use of set schemes and plays, balance gives way to individual scoring.

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However, the 2009 Wisconsin women’s basketball team (6-1) seems determined to buck the trend of unbalanced scoring. Through the team’s first seven games, six Badgers have had at least two double-digit scoring games.

Junior guard Alyssa Karel, last year’s leading scorer, still leads the way with six games of 10 points or more to complement her team-leading average of 14 points per game. While Karel’s average is almost two points higher than last year’s, the team as a whole is averaging 64.3 points per game, up from 56.6 last season.

“I think every single person on this team is very capable of scoring,” Karel said. “You can see us all — we’re working outside of practice, getting our shots up, putting in extra work. When you put in extra work, you earn the right to shoot and score. I think our offense is very dynamic in that it gets open shots for a lot of different people.”

While statistics never tell the complete story, they do greatly aid in defining a team’s style of play.

All five of this year’s starters are exceeding their scoring averages from last year. Junior forward Tara Steinbauer, already one of Wisconsin’s best offensive post players, has seen a big surge in scoring, from 7.3 to 8.7 points per game this year.

“I definitely worked on this summer trying to become more versatile as a forward,” Steinbauer said. “I know a lot of people think of me as a down-low post player, but I’ve definitely been working on my shot.”

Despite returning 10 of 11 players from last year’s squad, UW head coach Lisa Stone opted to implement a new offensive system in the offseason.

Known as a four-out, one-in offense, the scheme is guard-friendly, which surely appeals to the Badgers’ 10-guard roster. The offense relies more on the reads players make on the court and emphasizes a screen-and-cut style of play.

“I think a lot of it has to do with that,” senior guard Rae Lin D’Alie said of the team’s new offense and its balanced scoring. “Coach put it in and then she explained our roles as individuals, but how our roles are going to help the team.

“We understand who needs to be taking shots at certain points in the game, but as far as flow goes, it’s kind of like if you’re open, you go ahead, that’s within the offense. I think we understand that as a group really well.”

“It really opens things up for us and gives us more freedom and versatility to kind of play the motion in the offense that we would ideally like to play,” Steinbauer added. “There’s more opportunity to screen and slip. We’re doing a really good job, I think, this year, of looking inside. … We’ve done a really good job of getting it inside and going back to our guards.”

For the Badgers this season, balanced scoring has been essential to winning games.

In addition to scoring nearly eight more points per game this season, Wisconsin has been impressively efficient from the field. After seven games, UW has converted 43 percent of its field goals, a figure that looks even more outstanding next to the 35 percent that its opponents are hitting.

“You look at the balance, and it’s been pretty consistent. … I like to see that,” Stone said. “It’s been different people; it’s not always the same folks. We relied a lot on Alyssa Karel to do a majority of our scoring for us last year, and she’s still putting up big numbers.

“I like to see the fact that we’re getting some scoring from different areas — off the bench, inside, outside. That’s nice to be able to hang your hat on because we’re going to have to be less one-dimensional and more team-dimensional when it comes to scoring throughout the season.”

Moving forward, Stone’s squad will certainly need to work to maintain its offensive balance.

With Big Ten play beginning Dec. 6 on the road against conference favorite Ohio State, Wisconsin will be looking to maintain its high field goal percentage and scoring output. Last year, the Badgers saw both of those figures decrease in conference play, as well as 3-point shooting percentage.

“It’s everything,” D’Alie said of maintaining the balanced offense. “Once you start hitting Big Ten season, everything tightens up. The opponents that you’re going against, they know you inside and out.

“So it’s important to keep that attacking balance because once you’re able to stop one or two players on a team, then it kind of down spirals. We’re going to really concentrate this year on not allowing that to happen and really attack with balance.”

As the leading scorer and offensive sparkplug, Karel echoed D’Alie’s sentiments of the vitality of the offensive balance.

“We don’t have a ton of size, we’re not overly quick, so that’s the thing we all have to work hard on,” Karel said. “Everyone on the team has to do it, so it’s going to come from a lot of different angles, especially getting into the Big Ten season.”

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