O’Boyle’s focus on defense helps women’s basketball offensive slide

Sterling Giles
Contributing Writer

Sopohmore guard Isis Thorpe leads the team in scoring, averaging 11 points per game. Photo by Brooke Marsh

The 2014-15 campaign has proved to be another successful year thus far for VCU women’s basketball. The Rams are currently 13-7 on the season, going 4-3 in conference play. Additionally, they have only lost once at home going 8-1.

Part of the reason for the team’s success is a result of their defensive scheme. The team had a swap in personnel during the offseason. After two seasons with VCU, former head coach Marlene Stollings decided in April 2014 to pursue a head coach position at the University of Minnesota. Stollings has contributed to the Rams’ impressive run in the postseason, reaching this mark six times since the 2007-08 season. She also went 33-29 overall at the time.

Beth O’Boyle, head coach at Stony Brook University, replaced Stollings within the month. In the 2013-14 season, O’Boyle led her team to a Division I record 24 wins and a WNIT bid. The bid marked the program’s first postseason appearance in over seven years.

In her three seasons with Stony Brook, O’Boyle was 42-51 overall. The Seawolves prided themselves on their stout defense and disparity in the rebounding margin in comparison to its opponents. In her last season with the Seawolves, the team ranked 45th and 20th in the nation respectively.

Stollings and O’Boyle have polarizing styles of coaching, Stollings being more offensive-minded with O’Boyle focusing primarily on defense. In comparing O’Boyle’s year thus far at VCU and Stolling’s final year, the disparity on the offensive end is apparent.

Last season, the Rams shot an impressive 40 percent from the field, in the process tallying 75.8 points per game, which set a school record. In addition, Stolling’s team shot 31-percent from deep and 68-percent from the charity stripe. Finally, the team averaged about 15.4 assists per game, 11.5 steals per game and 41 rebounds per game.

This season, the disparity on the offensive end was expected due to O’Boyle’s defensive philosophy and also the departure of former star Robyn Parks. According to VCU Athletics, Parks ranked sixth on VCU’s all-time scoring list with 1,535 career points, and her 667 points last season are the third-most in school single-season history.

In addition to Parks, the guard duo of Isis Thorpe and Keira Robinson contributed effectively to the team last season. Thorpe averaged 11.9 ppg, with a 37 percent field goal percentage. She also shot about 34 percent from beyond the arc.

Robinson posted 10.7 ppg, while shooting 38 percent from the field, and shooting 27 percent from deep range. The duo each received Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors for their impressive showings on the hardwood.

O’Boyle’s team is currently shooting 36 percent from the field, while tallying 62.8 ppg. Additionally, they are shooting 32 percent from three, but are the poorest free throw shooting team in the A-10 conference at a mere 61 percent. The team also averages 12 assists per game 8.8 steals per game, which is third-best in the conference, and 43.9 rebound per game

This season, Thorpe and Robinson have had to emerge as leaders for the team. Thorpe is averaging 11.1 ppg and is also shooting just under 40 percent from deep. This places her in the top-25 and top-10 in the conference respectively. Robinson currently averages 2.1 steals per game, which seats her fifth in the conference.

Redshirt junior combo forward/center Melanie Royster contributes two blocks per game. This seats her seventh all-time in program history and is also second-best in the conference.

Despite struggles on the offensive end, O’Boyle plans to stay the course with her defensive focus.  It is expected that the Fury will seek to continue the trend of postseason appearances. However, this time around may prove to be more challenging due to the loss of star Robyn Parks and other offensive struggles.

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