Joe Dodson, Contributing Writer
After posting the biggest turnaround in D-I last season, women’s basketball is still hunting for more.
Last season, the focus for the Rams was defense as they ranked nationally in multiple categories. But this offseason, the focus was on something else: offense.
“We always want to be really solid defensively,” coach Beth O’Boyle said. “We talk about wanting to be able to create chaos on the defensive side, and really play at a high intense pace on the offensive side.”
O’Boyle wanted her team to focus on raising their offensive numbers while maintaining their intensity on the defensive end. VCU ranked fourth in the nation in scoring defense, limiting opponents to just 51.1 points per game last season.
The Rams also held opponents to an average of 32.8% from the field, and just 25.5% from beyond the 3-point point line.
O’Boyle laid out a goal to have the most free-throw attempts in the league after the Rams shot 68% from the line.
“That’s something we’ve been working on a lot, from summer into the fall and now practice,” said O’Boyle. “Hopefully we see some improvement in the numbers on the offensive side.”
O’Boyle said another goal for the team this year is to work on developing a self-designed culture for the team. She also said the program is player-driven, meaning the players lead the team and its expectations.
Those expectations include winning the A-10 in both the regular and postseason, along with earning a trip to the NCAA tournament.
Last season, Tera Reed earned First Team All-A-10 honors after leading the team in scoring, averaging 12.5 points. O’Boyle has seen Reed benefit the team in other ways, too.
“She’s a player that has led us in scoring, but then can also rebound for us and help us a great deal on the defensive end,” O’Boyle said. “She’s just a multilayered player. She’s just gonna fill that stat sheet because she can do a little bit of everything.”
Despite having the best season offensively for the Rams in terms of scoring, Reed believes she has even more to offer this season.
“This year, I want to make all-defensive team, and all-conference first team again,” Reed said. “I want to get my average up scoring … . And my rebounding has to get up.”
VCU struggled several seasons ago when it had one of the youngest teams in the conference. Now, the group is older and more experienced.
Senior center Danielle Hammond had the highest field goal percentage in the conference last year while averaging 10 points for the Rams. Junior guard Taya Robinson received A-10 Defensive Team honors last year, made the Third team All-A-10 and led the team in rebounds.
VCU only lost one home game last season, for which O’Boyle credits the fans and the Peppas. Reed feels an advantage when playing at the Siegel Center, which she has seen grow during her career.
“It’s home,” Reed said. “We’re used to it, we love it. … Our fanbase is growing, it gives us confidence.”
That confidence will be necessary as VCU heads into a tough non-conference schedule that includes matchups against Seton Hall and Cincinnati. Reed views these games as a way to prepare for a potential NCAA tournament bid.
“It’s gonna be a real challenge, and we’re definitely looking forward to it,” Reed said. “It’ll help us in getting to the tournament.”
O’Boyle looks forward to conference matchups against Dayton, George Washington and Fordham, which beat VCU in the A-10 championship game last season.
“Every week, I love the idea of competing,” O’Boyle said. “In the A-10 we have some great natural rivals. When we play that school right down the street that’s always a big one for us.”
Women’s basketball opens the season Nov. 5 at home against Appalachian State at 11 a.m.